Four Democratic candidates seeking their party's designation in the 24th Congressional District race participated in a forum in the town of Manlius Tuesday. The district is represented by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties and the western part of Oswego County.
Anne Messenger, who lives in Manlius, said the district needs to be represented by someone who is empathetic, listens and is deeply connected with the community.
“These are my friends, colleagues and family and other people whom I am getting to know and increasingly, I am told that people are not feeling well represented,” Messenger said.
Messenger said Katko has a low score of voting to protect the environment, which she called embarrassing and appalling.
The environment and a green economy are important issues for Scott Comegys, who raises alpacas in Wayne County and recently announced his candidacy. Comegys encouraged more Democrats outside of Onondaga County to make their voices heard in the district.
“One of the things in the 2016 election, if we have not learned anything else, it is to pay attention to the entire district, it is not just one isolated area,” Comegys said.
Bill Bass is from Herkimer County, but has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past six years, working in environmental protection for an oil company. Bass said he moved back home to Syracuse to run for the congressional seat to help fix education, the environment, and the economy.
“The government just doesn’t work for normal people," Bass said. "They’re not helping the average American succeed and to live the American dream. I guess taking a step back and seeing it from afar helped me realize the bigger picture.”
Bass said Katko supporting the tax bill was his biggest wakeup call for something to change.
Syracuse University professor Dana Balter called Katko’s tax vote atrocious.
Balter said she doesn’t know if a high profile Democrat like former-Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is going to enter the race, but Balter said she will do everything she can to help defeat Katko.
“I’m focused on running a campaign that is designed to best represent the interest of the people of the 24th district," Balter said. "My main objective is to help flip this seat and get John Katko out of office.”
Comegys said he would support whoever the party's designee is and not force a primary. Messenger said it is too soon to think about a primary. Bill Bass said he would not step aside unless he was sure the designee would accomplish his ideas and goals.
Another forum for the candidates will be held Thursday evening at 6 at the CNY Philanthropy Center in Syracuse.