Volunteers for former Syracuse mayoral candidate Juanita Perez Williams are scouring the 24th Congressional District this week in an attempt to get enough petition signatures to get her name on the June primary ballot in the race for Congress.
Perez Williams, who only announced her candidacy last week, said joining the race to try to unseat Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) at this point came down to one thing.
“It’s about getting this race on the map,” said Perez Williams.
She said she was watching on the sidelines to see if any of the entities that courted her to run for Congress after her mayoral loss last November would sign on to the campaign of the endorsed Democrat in the race, Syracuse University Professor Dana Balter.
Perez Williams said she didn’t see that happening.
“People know that the 24th Congressional District is one we have to flip. But no one’s talking about it outside central New York,” she said. “We need to make sure that they understand, this is where their money should go. This is where their attention should go. And I believe I have the name recognition and the endorsements from a prior campaign that I can get back, and we can start to bring the attention here.”
Katko is running for his third term. He handily beat his two earlier opponents with a large infusion of cash from the national Republican Party.
Perez Williams is also facing criticism from local Democrats who’ve already signed on with Balter, openly criticizing national party support of Perez Williams. She said she understands their anger.
“I was trying very hard to do the right thing. And I still think I am,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage to do this. I’m taking a lot of heat. But that’s what our foremothers did, they got in the race and they fought.”
Perez Williams has to deliver 1,250 signatures from district, which includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and the western part of Oswego county, to the State Board of Elections in Albany by Thursday. If she and Bill Bass of Syracuse can get those signatures in by Thursday’s deadline, they’ll face Balter in the June primary.