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Primary recap: Balter with big lead over Conole, Tenney declares victory, turnout could break record

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Balter/Conole campaigns
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Updated at 10 a.m. Wednesday In the Democratic primary race for the 24th Congressional District, Dana Balter leads Francis Conole by more than 4,700 votes with early and primary day ballots counted. But there are still more than 28,000 absentee ballots for the race throughout the district that need to be counted, and a winner might not be declared until after the July 4 holiday.

Balter said Tuesday night she equates the high level of turnout to central and western New Yorkers being ready for change. All eligible voters in New York were able to request absentee ballots this year, to limit the number of in-person voters, due to the coronavirus.

“We have seen in this election what a big difference a vote-by-mail option makes in terms of turnout,” Balter said. “I really hope that New York works quickly to extend vote by mail to everybody. I’m hoping this becomes a permanent feature of our elections, so we’re more used to this kind of result.”

Get results of other races from Tuesday's primary

Balter has support from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, while Conole has struck a more moderate tone on some issues. If Balter is able to sustain her lead, it will be the second time she’s won the Democratic primary for the 24th District. Balter went on to lose to incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) by five percentage points in the 2018 general election. But she said, this time around, the campaign is in a great position to finish the job they started and flip the seat.

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Credit Tom Magnarelli
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Dana Balter speaks to reporters on Zoom after results from primary day.

“We are building on the foundation of last cycle, a volunteer network of 1,900 people, record-breaking fundraising operation and name recognition that’s almost as high as John Katko’s,” Balter said. “Those are all incredibly important aspects. But the most important thing is that John Katko has given us another year and a half of failed leadership.”

Balter went on to criticize Katko’s endorsement of President Donald Trump for reelection. She said she is excited to help elect former Vice President Joe Biden in the fall.

Conole’s campaign manager issued a statement on primary night.

“The Democratic primary race in New York’s 24th Congressional District still has tens of thousands of absentee ballots (projected 70% of votes cast) that need to be counted. The margin will go up and down as these remaining ballots are counted in the coming weeks. Francis Conole and our campaign will continue to focus on fighting for the people of Central New York.”

The 24th Congressional District includes all of Onondaga, Wayne and Cayuga counties and the western portion of Oswego County.

Tenney wins GOP primary

Former Rep. Claudia Tenney won her GOP primary in the 22nd Congressional District, setting up a rematch with Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who beat Tenney in a close race in 2018. Tenney led George Phillips by more than 8,700 votes. Phillips did not concede Tuesday night, saying he wanted to wait until absentee ballots are opened. But Phillips conceded Wednesday morning, with little chance to overcome his deficit with about 15,000 absentee ballots to count. Tenney Tuesday night turned her attention to Brindisi, saying in a statement "Now is the time for us to come together and focus on defeating out-of-touch Democrats like Anthony Brindisi who are nothing more than a rubberstamp for Pelosi and the far left."

Other races

In the 121st State Assembly district, which covers parts of Madison and Otsego counties, Dan Butterman leads Corey Mosher by nearly 14 percentage points. In the 126th Assembly district, which covers parts of Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland and Chenango counties, John Lemondes leads Daniel Fitzpatrick by about 20 percentage points.

In the city of Syracuse, Shadia Tadros and Felicia Pitts Davis won the Democratic primary for Syracuse City Court Judge. Ted Limpert and Jeff Leibo won the Independence Party primary for City Court Judge.

Turnout could break a record

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t dampen voter turnout Tuesday's primary, at least in Onondaga County.  Democratic elections commissioner Dustin Czarny said late Tuesday by the time every vote is counted, he expects more than 41,000 registered voters will have voted. And that could be a record for a primary.

"We’re going to be very close to beating the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential primary, which was a record turnout," Czarny said. "And I think we could it’s possible with more absentees, to surpass."

More than 22,000 absentees have already come into the Onondaga County Board of Elections.  16,000 voters went to the polls Tuesday or voted early. Czarny said absentee ballots won't be opened in the county until July 2, and results aren’t expected until the week after that.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.