Former U.S. Attorney John Katko walked out of the Republican convention in Syracuse this weekend as the party designated GOP candidate in the race for central New York's 24th Congressional District. It was the culmination of months of politicking by eight candidates who wanted the chance to unseat democrat Dan Maffei.
"Cayuga, Wayne County, Oswego and Onondaga County has selected on the first round of voting to take on Dan Maffei, U.S. Attorney John Katko."
With that announcement by Onondaga County Republican Party Chair Tom Dadey, the race for the 24th hits high gear. Katko quit his job as a federal prosecutor in January in order to run for Congress, and says he’s ready to take on Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei.
"Job one is to get our message and take our message to Dan Maffei that it’s not going to be business as usual in Washington any longer," Katko said. "There’s so many ways to distinguish ourselves against Dan Maffei. The question is do you want the government to make every decision for you and taxing you do death, or do you want to give people the opportunity to make their own way in life?"
Katko, who lives in Camillus, is best known for prosecuting dozens of street gang members in Syracuse. He’s promised to use his experience to take the GOP message into the city of Syracuse, which voted overwhelmingly Democratic during the last congressional election.
"It’s time we went in there and told them what we’re about," Katko said. "And I’ve done a lot of work in the city the last 15 years, and I think it’s going to make a difference this time around.”
Before he gets to Maffei though, Katko could be facing a primary in his own party. Republican activist Ian Hunter, who ran on the Conservative party line in Syracuse's mayoral election last year, says he will begin the month-long process of gathering signatures to force a June primary. Three other candidates, John Lemondes, Jason Lesch and Rick Guy, have not totally ruled out a primary either. Guy says the time might be right to take the decision to primary voters.
"Because there’s a lot of undo influence of the establishment, elected officials and behind the scenes officials, that obviously is taken out of the way when you do a primary," Guy said. "I don’t know, but this may well be a good time to go directly to the people.”
But Katko hopes it doesn’t come down to that.
"One of the beneficiaries of a primary is Dan Maffei," Katko explained. "So lets hope we can unite them. If we don’t, we’ll go through with it and we’ll deal with it.”
Anyone who wants to jump into a GOP primary has about a month to gather 1,250 signatures.