Democrats Dana Balter, and Juanita Perez Williams will face off in a June 26 primary, with the winner moving on to face Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) in November. The two share a number of things in common, but there are also differences between them. Those differences came out during a conversation with Grant Reeher for this week's edition of the Campbell Conversations.
The biggest of those differences may be when it comes to women's reproductive rights. Balter's campaign released a television ad critical of Perez Williams for social media posts that were deemed anti-abortion.
"That is a big difference between us," Balter said. "I stand firmly 100 percent in support of a woman's right to choose and not only protecting, but expanding women's access to healthcare."
Balter then went on the attack.
"My opponent says she is pro-choice, but seems to have been on all sides of this issue. She posted on social media in celbration of an Irish judge upholding Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws. She posted on social media about proudly marching in this country's largest anti-abortion protest who's express purpose is to make abortion illegal in this country. I don't understand how who says and does those things can be trusted to stand up and protect these rights."
Perez Williams said Balter was being disingenuous.
"I am pro-choice. Dana knows that," she said. "My mother worked for Planned Parenthood, we were a choice family. I've raised two daughters that are now adult women, both pro-choice, and both know that as a mother, I was always firm about the fact that we need to respect all choices for all women. It's about preserving that right, it's about ensuring that we respect the right for all women."
When asked about attending the March for Life in 2016, Perez Williams said she attended the march with her youngest son.
"One particular year, I went. I wanted to see what he was exposed to, "Perez Williams said. "I wanted to see what he was doing with our church members and with his friends. And by going there, I confirmed for me that choice is important and we need to preserve it for all women."
Balter responded that she didn't think that was a satisfactory answer.
"In Juanita's own words, she said 'I proudly marched.' That is not 'I participated to observe' in a march who's sole purpose is to make abortion illegal in this country," Balter said. "I don't understand how that comports with protecting women's rights. The two just do not go together."
But Perez Williams defended her decision to attend the march.
"It's not inconsistent for respecting choice, no matter what that choice is, and then being out there ensuring that you vote for it and you preserve it. That is a logical response. If you truly respect all choice, then you preserve it and you vote for it," Perez Williams said. "When I was at that march, I had no agenda. It was simply to see what my son was exposed to. And again, it reaffirmed my faith that choice is something we must preserve and I will always vote to ensure we do that."
The full debate will air Saturday, June 16 at 6:30 a.m. and Sunday, June 17 at 6:30 p.m.