The two candidates running for central new York's 24th District seat held their first debate this week, where they disagreed on nearly every issue. Democrat Dana Balter and incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) will hold three more televised debates before Election Day.
Both Katko and Balter were invited to participate in a debate on WRVO's Campbell Conversations. Balter's campaign accepted the invitation, while Katko's campaign declined. As a result, this week on the program, host Grant Reeher speaks with Dana Balter.
In this portion of the discussion, Balter is asked about Katko's stance as a moderate. Balter has claimed that Katko has voted with President Trump on major legislation 90 percent of the time, and disagrees with Katko's stance that he is a moderate. Here, she's asked why.
[Balter]: It's his overall record, and I think that looking at the 90 percent statistic is a good initial guide. That comes from fivethirtyeight.com, they take out when they figure this statistic out, which they do for all members of Congress and this is a nonpartisan site. They take out a lot of the non controversial and unimportant things. Their focus is on substantive issues, which is important because some of the other rankings that the Congressman cites don't do that and they include a lot of things that are done to pad the statistics and that makes him and others look more moderate or more independent than they actually are. Five Thirty Eight's reporting on this is pretty good. But if we dig into his votes we can see very clearly that he is not the moderate that he claims to be. He told us when he first started running for office in 2014 that he's a fiscal conservative and a social conservative. In his own words he said that. And his voting record shows us the tax bill was a party line vote. He has a terrible record on environmental issues, just like the rest of his party does, doing things like voting to dump coal ash in our streams and allowing pesticides and toxins and chemicals in our water supply. He campaigned saying that he would never vote to defund Planned Parenthood and his first year in office he did it 4 times. He is a co sponsor of the concealed carry reciprocity act that is NRA bill that our own law enforcement community tells us makes us less safe. And on the rare occasion that he actually does vote against his party, it's a matter of political convenience. It's when his party doesn't need his vote and so he is allowed to vote against to come back here and tell us. One of the votes that he holds up as sort of his greatest badge of independence was his vote against his party on the Republican healthcare bill. Because he said to us "I will never repeal the ACA without a good replacement." He voted against that bill, but then he voted for the tax bill, which was a back door way to accomplish the same thing. Because in the tax bill they killed the key provision of the ACA that made the entire thing work. And so..
[Reeher]: Let's specify what that was. What was that provision?
[Balter]: It was this so called the individual mandate that requires people to have insurance…
[Reeher]: It was I think, more specifically than that, correct me if I'm wrong, it was the penalty, the financial penalty assessed if you do not have insurance that's what was removed.
[Balter]: Yes and as a result of that we saw a couple of things happen sort of as a direct result of that, that are really important. One, premiums started going through the roof and we saw state after state after state release numbers of what all of their insurers we're gonna do with premiums in the next year. And right here in our district, we saw our largest insurer announce that they were asking for premium increases of 39 percent next year. That kind of an increase throws thousands of people off insurance. The second thing that happened, that's maybe even more concerning, is this lawsuit that we're seeing in Texas, where 20 GOP-led states are suing the federal government saying "now that you've taken out this key provision of the ACA the rest of the bill is invalid." And so we are now seeing challenges to all the other provisions that we need. Right? The ability to stay on your parents insurance tell your 26, the ban on discriminating against women and charging them more for healthcare, the ban on lifetime caps, so babies who are born and have to go in a NICU may reach their lifetime insurance cap before they even make it home out of the hospital. And most importantly, a threat to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and in our district alone that's almost 300, 000 people under the age of 65. Right? All of that is a direct result of that vote on the tax bill. This is anything but a moderate agenda.