Analysis: Balter has an uphill climb ahead in race against Katko

Feb 28, 2018

Democratic officials in the 24th Congressional District have endorsed Syracuse University professor Dana Balter to take on Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) this fall. Unseating the two-term congressman will be an uphill climb, according to Grant Reeher, a political science professor at SU and host of WRVO's Campbell Conversations.

Katko has better name recognition and more than $1 million in his campaign coffers, compared to Balter's $50,000. But one thing Balter has going for her, Reeher says, is the anti-Trump momentum that's swept several Democrats into office over the last year.

"If there’s this huge tidal wave surge and that becomes the story, and that becomes the attention, and Dana Balter is hammering away at the idea that the 24th could play a role in flipping the House of Representatives, it may be harder for him," Reeher said. "But he comes in with a lot of advantages, particularly if we look back at past elections."

Katko was last reelected in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote. He even won the city of Syracuse.

Part of what makes Katko so formidable is the independent image he maintains - authoring bipartisan bills and bucking his party on some controversial matters like the failed attempt last year to repeal obamacare. Balter is trying to chip away at that image, noting that Katko votes with the GOP consistently and supported their controversial tax overhaul.

"The vote on the tax cut could come back to haunt him, however, it needs to be noted that - and he will obviously be stressing this in his reelection campaign - that he did play a central role in the effort to change that law as it was being considered there in the final days and to change some of the provisions that would have hurt people up here in the district and organizations like Syracuse University, for example," Reeher said. "So he will have that as kind of a counter narrative to the criticism of the tax cut bill. Nonetheless, he did vote for it in its final version."

Ultimately, Reeher thinks that blue wave will have to be of "tsunami"-like proportions to oust this incumbent.