Three of the four Democratic county committees in the 24th Congressional District are throwing their support behind Dana Balter in her bid to unseat Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) this fall. Balter, a Syracuse University professor, is one of four candidates seeking the Democratic ticket.
The endorsement from the Oswego, Cayuga and Wayne county Democrats followed a forum in Auburn Wednesday between Balter and Anne Messenger, a former small business owner and special education teacher from Manlius. The two other Democrats running, Scott Comegys of Wayne County and Bill Bass from Herkimer County, were not allowed to participate because the committees did not think they have the necessary infrastructure.
Throughout the forum, Balter and Messenger expressed nearly identical positions on a range of issues from their opposition to the recently passed GOP tax overhaul, to protecting funding for Planned Parenthood and criticizing the bipartisan image that Katko espouses.
But Cayuga County Chair Ian Phillips said the three committees are in unison that Balter is their best shot at beating Katko.
"Dana Balter is energetic, she's knowledgeable and she has the ability to hold John Katko accountable," Phillips said.
Phillips also said Balter has demonstrated an ability to galvanize and motivate people in the district. She was a lead organizer with the anti-Trump activist group CNY Solidarity Coalition. Balter emphasized that when telling the audience why she was best suited to take on Katko.
"We have seen earlier this year across the country successful electoral campaigns in Virginia, New Jersey, Alabama - places where we never thought that Democrats would be competitive, let alone win. And the reason that happened is because of the power of the grassroots," Balter said. "I have been working as a community organizer in this district at the heart of that grassroots movement."
Messenger, who has lived in central New York for 38 years, highlighted her time building relationships in the area during her pitch, and her ability to appeal to a wide range of voters.
"I look back with singular pride at accomplishments I have under my belt in the economy, healthcare, the environment and education," Messenger said. "I believe that I and my accomplishments will appeal to Democrats and I believe they will also appeal to the people who show up to the polls whose labels are Independents and even - dare I say - Republicans. I believe I will appeal across the board to a number of people who will show up, and that is a big bottom line."
The Onondaga County Democratic Committee plans to offer their designation in the race later this month.