It’s still too early to say for sure and the polls continue to shift, but it’s looking more and more like the Democrats are preparing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this November. One of the House races the Dems have had their eye on is New York 24, where GOP Congressman John Katko has been considered to be vulnerable. It’s a sprawling district in the upstate region and includes the city of Syracuse. Hillary Clinton carried the district by a fair margin in 2016 and the generic ballot there favors the Democrats slightly, though roughly one-third of the registered voters are independents.
Given all of the anti-Trump sentiment running through the northeast these days, it looks like a natural target. With that in mind, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee got to work identifying a prime candidate to take on Katko. They settled on Syracuse native Juanita Perez Williams. On paper, she’s a great choice. She’s a military veteran with legislative experience and good name recognition. She previously came within a couple thousand votes of becoming the mayor of Syracuse so she has campaign experience as well. And being Hispanic never hurts in the diversity area, on top of being a woman.The DCCC dove into the task, helping Williams collect signatures, raise money and prepare for the race.
There’s just one problem. Nobody from the DCCC bothered to check in with the local Democratic committees in the four counties which make up the bulk of the district. They had already found their own candidate in Dana Balter and done the same legwork getting her ready as well. Now the Democrats are stuck with a nasty primary battle in front of them and the local Democrats say they are “disgusted” with how the DCCC is trying to put their thumb on the scale and push a different candidate on them. (Free Beacon)
At a town hall in Auburn, New York, hosted by Balter, one of her supporters said she was “disgusted” by the DCCC’s involvement, calling Balter “knowledgeable, committed, passionate and articulate.”
Local Democrats are infuriated because they have to fight Williams in a primary now rather than focus on coalescing around Balter. Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the district in 2016, and there are more registered Democrats (159,000) there than Republicans (148,000), along with a sizable number of independents (116,000).
DCCC chair Ben Ray Luján didn’t sound contrite about the situation in a statement to the Times.
“As a veteran and prosecutor, Latina and mom—with deep roots in the Syracuse region—Juanita has spent her life fighting for working people,” he said. “Juanita will run a competitive campaign based on creating jobs, investing in infrastructure and providing access to affordable health care.”
One of the other local officials called the DCCC’s maneuvers a “slap in the face” to the local chairs and all the volunteers who have been working to get Balter ready to take on Katko. Neither side is backing down, however, so some of the resources they were preparing for the fall will now have to be expended in what basically boils down to a fight between the local Democratic Party and the national organization.
This has obviously resulted in a split in the Democrats’ fundraising efforts, with both candidates sucking up donations. Meanwhile, Katko has no serious primary challenger and has raised more than twice the amount either of the Democrats has managed thus far. He’s currently sitting on $1.24 million in the bank. (That may not sound like a ton of campaign cash these days, but this is a fairly cheap district to campaign in with only one serious media market.)
None of this means that Katko is in the clear yet and it will all come down to how the independents break in November. But we’re once again seeing a case where the national Democratic Party is shooting itself in the foot when they could have had a much clearer path to victory if they’d simply picked up the phone and talked to their own people at the local level.