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Politics and Government

Conole, running again to challenge Katko, highlights their differences, including on Afghanistan

Katko Conole.jpg
Rep. John Katko and Francis Conole.

Francis Conole, a Navy Reserve commander and Iraq War veteran, announced he's running again to try and challenge central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) next year. Conole ran in 2020, but lost in the Democratic primary. He's hoping for more name recognition this time and is highlighting the differences between him and Katko.

Conole said it was a challenge campaigning last year during a pandemic, where it was almost impossible to knock on doors and get his name out. Since then, he’s served as the Syracuse city chair on the Onondaga County Democratic Committee.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to not only walk with local candidates, but also connect with voters on behalf of our campaign and our candidacy,” Conole said.

His message is about helping the middle class and working families.

“We’re focused on ways we can invest in central New York for jobs and better pay, access to affordable health care, access to child care, we have a housing crisis here,” he said.

He slammed Katko for voting against the American Rescue Plan, the nearly $2 trillion COVID-relief package, and criticized him for voting for the tax reform bill in 2017.

“John Katko has been voting for things not to help central New Yorkers, not to help the middle class, but to help the very, very, very rich,” Conole said.

Steven Holden, a retired Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is also seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Katko.

Katko said whoever his opponent is in 2022, is going to have to answer for what he calls the Biden administration’s colossal blunders, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Katko said the U.S. should have kept troops there in a defensive, peacekeeping presence, like in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

“We do that all over the world to maintain the peace, it’s a stabilizing presence,” Katko said. “Without that presence there, we don’t have intel. We don’t have intel, we can’t get the bad guys. The bad guys can metastasize and we certainly can’t trust the Taliban to work with us.”

Conole agrees with Biden’s decision to end operations in Afghanistan.

“I have said that we cannot have these forever wars, this was a 20-year war,” he said.

The 24th Congressional District could change somewhat as New York state loses a district and redraws the lines.