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Politics and Government

Katko prepares for first term in Congress

John Katko/Facebook
Representative-elect John Katko (R-Camillus), poses with his wife, Robin, and others during a Christmas giveaway event on Syracuse's Southside.

There won’t be much change going from candidate John Katko to Rep. Katko after the Republican takes the oath of office in Washington, D.C. next month. The representative-elect expects the campaign style that led him to a 20-point win over incumbent Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei in November will be the model for his congressional career.

For former federal prosecutor Katko, that means plenty of town hall meetings, tele-town halls, social media, and just plain getting around.

"I’m going to keep in that campaign mode of shaking hands and talking to everybody, because I think that’s a dramatic change from my predecessor," Katko said. "I think people want to know their congressman is working for them and they want to see him around, you know.”

Katko expects to spend most of his time in the 24th Congressional District, that includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne Counties and part of Oswego County. That means he figures he will be in Washington two or three nights a week. He’s not renting an apartment and will be sleeping on a couch in his office.

He doesn’t expect to get too steeped in the D.C. culture, either.

"You know, I’m there to work and sleep and get back home again," Katko explained. "I think the people that stay there, the people that move there, the people that get neck deep in the Washington game, I think they lose touch with what’s the important part. And what’s the important part is your district."

On the staffing side, Katko says his hiring philosophy was finding people who had room to grow with him.

"We wanted young, hungry staffers," Katko said. "We wanted people with the dreaded 'P' word; potential. They have experience. Some of them have very good experience, but a lot of them have some experience and a terrific amount of potential.”

He says he’s tried to bring young people into his office who have experience or are from New York state. For example, his chief of staff will be Brad Gentile, who’s worked for Hudson Valley Republican Rep. Chris Gibson.

“His district is similar to ours, as far as political make up," Katko explained. "So he’s been through a couple of tough elections with him, and he has helped get him going from a freshman congressman to a seasoned congressman, and that’s exactly what I wanted.”

As for the politics of being a representative, Katko understands there will be some heavy political hardball, but says he won’t let it change the positions he took during the campaign.

"There’s some chatter about a bill to repeal Obamacare," Katko said. "I’m not going to sign on to it. I said during the campaign I’m not going to, and I’m not going to. Because unless there is a replacement for it in place ready to go, you cannot take away insurance from the millions of Americans who now have it.”

The newly-elected representative expects his reputation in Washington to take on the look of the 24th District, that ranges from rural small town conservative areas, to middle of the road suburbs and a progressive big city.

“I have to reflect my district," Katko explained. "I’m a fiscal conservative, but I’m also a moderate in that I’ve got to represent the interests of my district, and it’s a diverse district."

Katko starts representing the 24th District, which includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne Counties and the western portion of Oswego County, in early January.