Katko Uses CapTon Interview to Question Deacon’s Independence

Republican Rep. John Katko, the Central New York freshman who is fighting to hold onto his seat in one of the most competitive House races in the nation, is out with his fourth TV ad, which questions the ability of his opponent, Colleen Deacon, to act independently of the Democratic conference if she’s elected in November.

The 30-second ad, called “Meet Colleen,” features the following exchange I had with Deacon during an April 28 Capital Tonight interview:

“Liz Benjamin: Colleen Deacon joins us from the Syracuse newsroom. Do you think that you could be independent and break with the leadership of the Democratic Conference in the House? I mean are you going to be able to say to Nancy Pelosi: ‘NO, I’m going to vote with the Republicans on this one?’

Colleen Deacon: Well, I mean, I think, to be honest with you, I think a lot of what the Democratic Platform is what I stand for. So I don’t know necessarily why I would break away from…um, uh why I would want to break away from any of the issues, you know, anything specifically.”

This isn’t the first time Katko and/or his Republican allies have used these particular words of Deacon’s against her. And it’s not surprisingly that they have seized on this point, either, given the fact that the district – NY-24 – is so closely divided and voters there have demonstrated in the past that they prefer to be represented by someone who thinks for him or her self and doesn’t hew too closely to any particular party ideology.

The ad started airing today on broadcast and cable in CNY. No word on the size of the buy or the duration of the run.

House GOP Super PAC Plans NY-24 Push

The super PAC aligned with House Republicans is making a deep spending push into central New York’s 24th congressional district, a top battleground House seat in upstate New York.

The Congressional Leadership Fund is set to spend $800,000 against Democrat Colleen Deacon, who is challenging incumbent Rep. John Katko, a Republican first elected in 2014.

“We’re proud to support Republicans like John Katko, who is running on providing solutions-based leadership in the House. From the airwaves to the ground game, Democrats will have no place to hide from their support of the failed Obama-Clinton agenda,” said Ruth Guerra, spokeswoman for Congressional Leadership Fund. “Voters need to look no further than the Iran deal ransom and Hillary’s email scandal to know they don’t want more dishonest Democrats in Congress.”

The spending will include get-out-the-vote efforts in the 24th district as well as TV ads set to air on Oct. 11 in the Syracuse media market.

All told, the super PAC has an initial outlay of $1.4 million in New York House races, which has reliably seen closely waged contests in recent election cycles. The 24th district in central New York has traded hands between Democrats and Republicans over the last several election cycles.

The Congressional Leadership Fund also plans to spend $300,000 each in the 1st district on Long Island as well as the 19th congressional in the Hudson Valley on get-out-the-vote efforts.

In the NY-1, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is defending his seat against Democrat Anna Throne-Holst. In the 19th district, Republican John Faso is competing against Democrat Zephyr Teachout for a seat that’s being vacated by Republican Chris Gibson.

Katko’s 2nd Ad Features Democratic Testimonial

Freshman Republican Rep. John Katko, one of the Democrats’ top targets in the November elections, has released his second TV ad of the campaign, again trying to position himself as a pragmatist who is willing to work across the aisle to represent a closely divided district that has traded hands several times over the past several years.

The spot features two registered Democrats – John and Tina Socci of Cayuga County – who have been dramatically impacted by the state’s opioid/heroin epidemic, according to the Katko campaign.

The Soccis lost their daughter, Katie, five years ago when she was killed by her ex-fiancé – a man addicted to opiate-based painkillers. And then two years later, the Socci family lost their son, Chris, to a heroin overdose.

The couple has worked with the congressman in his efforts to address this crisis. In the ad they call him “a very good ally” and someone who understands the “danger of drugs,” thanks to his experience as a former federal prosecutor.

Katko is facing off in the NY-24 general election against Democrat Colleen Deacon, a former aide of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who won a three-way primary in June.

Deacon and the DCCC have sought to portray Katko as in lock step with his fellow Republicans, particularly presidential nominee Donald Trump, though the congressman has declined to formally endorse the New York businessman’s candidacy.

Katko’s new ad is starting to air immediately on broadcast and cable stations. The campaign did not provide any information on the size of the buy. Here’s the script:

“Our daughter was killed five years ago by her ex-fiancé.

He had become addicted to opiate-based painkillers and he strangled Katie to death…in front of their 18-month-old daughter.

Just over two years later, our son passed away…on his 25th birthday…from a heroin overdose.

We have adopted our granddaughter. I hope she grows up in a better world than this. We can’t bring back our son or our daughter, but we can help.

We know that John Katko is willing to do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to battle drug abuse, to battle domestic violence.

John Katko has helped us. John Katko has been a very good ally.

As a federal prosecutor, he knows the danger of drugs.

When John Katko tells you he is going to do something, he does it.

John Katko has earned the right to continue this fight.”

Continue This Fight from John Katko for Congress on Vimeo.

Katko’s 1st TV Ad Highlights Bipartisanship

Freshman Republican Rep. John Katko, whose race is widely viewed as one of the nation’s most competitive House contests, is out with his first TV ad of the campaign, which focuses on his ability to “work across the aisle to get things done.”

This is notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Katko’s district, NY-24, is fairly closely divided and has changed hands between the major parties over the past several election cycles, which means whoever the incumbent is needs NOT to hew too closely to the party leadership and orthodoxy.

In Katko’s case, that has translated this year into shying away from the GOP’s controversial presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, while the Democrats try every way possible to make the bash billionaire businessman an anchor around the congressman’s neck.

Katko is among the many Republicans across New York and the nation who have opted not to make the trip here to Cleveland to attend Trump’s convention. He has said repeatedly – as recently as six days ago – that the presidential hopeful would have to significantly change his tone and lack of substance in order to win his endorsement.

Katko is facing off in November against Colleen Deacon, a political newcomer and former aide to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who won last month’s three-way Democratic primary.

The ad is starting to air “immediately” on broadcast and cable TV across the district, according to the Katko campaign. No word on the size of the buy or the duration of time it will be on the air. Here’s the script…Katko himself is the narrator:

“Some say it’s the miles that make the man.

The experiences we have…the people we encounter.

I spent two decades as a federal prosecutor…and the last two years as Central New York’s representative in Congress.

We’ve had great success…passing more bills than any first term member from either party.
Working across the aisle to get things done right.

Because the best solutions to our problems come from right here…no matter how many back road trips it takes to find them.”

America Rising PAC Hits Deacon Over Clinton Emails

American Rising PAC today slammed NY-24 Democratic candidate Colleen Deacon for shrugging off questions during a Capital Tonight about the judgment of her party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, that are being raised by Republicans following the FBI’s decision not to bring charges against the former secretary of state for using a private email server while working in the Obama administration.

According to the Republican-aligned PAC, this is yet another example of how Deacon is hewing closely to the Democratic orthodoxy and failing to exhibit the sort of independence that voters in the closely divided district have demanded from their representatives on both sides of the aisle in the past.

“Colleen Deacon’s refusal to admit any concern about Hillary Clinton’s ‘extremely careless’ handling of classified information is outright disturbing,” said the PAC’s Dan Knight. “Deacon’s decision to shamelessly toe the Democrat Party line after being funded and supported by national Democrats is proof she values her relationship with Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi more than the voters of the 24th District,”

Deacon made her second appearance on Capital Tonight last night – her first interview with us since she won a three-way Democratic primary last month. I noted the GOP’s criticism of her for failing during her first CapTon interview back in April to identify a single issue on which she might split from the Democratic leadership if she’s elected to the House this fall, and asked whether she was troubled by the developments in the Clinton email scandal.

“Well look, I mean, I’m not going to question the top law enforcement’s recommendation on this decision,” Deacon replied. “And I think John Katko, as a former federal prosecutor, should know this better than anybody. What my focus is right now is the people of this district, talking about issues that matter. Talking about jobs and the economy. Talking about helping our veterans. Talking about helping our seniors.”

“That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not focused on other things that are going on in D.C. and are not going to affect the people of the 24th District. frankly I think that John Katko is more interested in getting Hillary Clinton in trouble than doing things like people on the terrorist watch list from being able to purchase a gun. Those are the things that matter.”

When pressed on the issue, Deacon stuck to her guns, saying:

“You know I think the FBI, you know, they provided their recommendation. The top of the FBI was at a hearing just last week answering questions directed at (sic) Congress on this topic. But, again, I don’t think that’s really what we need to be focusing on.”

For the record, I again asked Deacon if she had come up with anything on which she disagreed with her fellow Democrats since the last time we spoke. She replied that she is eager to work across the aisle if she makes it to D.C., and said she does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which puts her at odds with President Obama – but, it should be noted, is exactly in line with Clinton’s position on the issue.

NRCC Questions Deacon’s Independence

Now that the congressional primaries have passed and the general election battles are set, (for the most part), candidates in contested races across the state and their respective supporters have turned their attention to the opponents against whom they’ll be facing off in November.

That includes the NRCC, which today slammed Colleen Deacon, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand who won a three-way Democratic primary in NY-24 on Tuesday, suggesting that she’ll be ltitle more than a rubber stamp for the Democratic conference and its leader, California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, if she succeeds in ousting freshman Republican Rep. John Katko.

NRCC spokesman Chris Pack noted that Deacon’s campaign has so far received $18,700 in contributions from “Pelosi & Company.” During the primary, Deacon was endorsed by the DCCC and a number of so-called “establishment” Democrats – including her former boss – while one of her opponents, Prof. Eric Kingson, was viewed as the candidate of the party’s liberal wing, backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Pack also pointed out that during a Capital Tonight interview back in April (watch it here), the candidate said the following when I asked her whether she would be able to break from the Democratic leadership if she makes it to D.C., and if so, then on what:

“…a lot of what the Democratic platform is what I stand for so I don’t know necessarily why I would break away from, umm, why I would want to break way from any of the issues, you know, anything specifically.”

That sort of blind loyalty is just the sort of thing that voters in the closely divided NY-24 have demonstrated a dislike for, throwing out former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei (the first time), for example, when he failed to demonstrate a sufficient degree of independence from his fellow House Democrats.

On the flip side, Katko has tried hard to portray himself as a pragmatist who is willing to work across the aisle to get things done, and he is struggling not to ally himself too closely with the GOP’s controversial presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, refusing to formally endorse him. Of course, the Democrats are making things difficult for Katko by pointing out at every turn that he’ll be running on the same ticket as Trump in November.

Here’s what Pack had to say, officially, on Deacon’s ties to Pelosi:

“It should alarm voters that Colleen Deacon could not think of a single issue where she would break from Nancy Pelosi to work in a bipartisan fashion for Central New York. If Colleen Deacon and Nancy Pelosi had it their way, they would undo all of the bipartisan accomplishments that John Katko has secured for Central New York during his short time in office.”

Congressional Fundraising Roundup

With New York’s presidential primary behind us, we’re now looking forward to this year’s Congressional primary in June.

We’re watching eight different races from Long Island to the Finger Lakes that are either competitive this year or have been in past election cycles.

The most recent fundraising deadline was at the end of March, and filings started trickling in late last week. We have compiled the latest numbers so you don’t have to, including how much each candidate has raised overall this election cycle and how much they raised in the first quarter of this year. We have also included how much cash each candidate has on hand as of the latest filing.

Candidates are listed below in order from most-money-raised to least. Remember to click the ‘Read More’ button for the full list.

You can find more on each of these races in our Race for Congress section.

3rd Congressional District

Steve Stern (D)
Total Raised: $500,633
Total Raised First Quarter: $500,633
Cash on Hand: $444,530

Tom Suozzi (D)
Total Raised: $451,306
Total Raised First Quarter: $451,306
Cash on Hand: $374,345

Anna Kaplan (D)
Total Raised: $445,160
Total Raised First Quarter:  $445,160
Cash on Hand: $344,659

Jack Martins (R)
Total Raised: $283,598
Total Raised First Quarter: $283,598
Cash on Hand: $242,223

Jon Kaiman (D)
Total Raised: $242,379
Total Raised First Quarter: $242,379
Cash on Hand: $189,305

Philip Pidot (R)
Total Raised: $106,796
Total Raised First Quarter: $106,796
Cash on Hand: $83,696

Chad Lupinacci (R)
Total Raised: $27,720
Total Raised First Quarter: $27,720
Cash on Hand: $25,262

Jonathan Clarke (D), Dan Serota (R), and Robert Trotta (R) have not submitted a filing for the first quarter.

More >

NY-24: Deacon Touts ‘Toss-Up’ Status

Democratic congressional hopeful Colleen Deacon on Friday touted the decision by the respected Cook Political Report to designate the 24th district race in New York a “tossup” contest.

The move is hardly surprising, giving the Syracuse-area seat in central New York has been battleground district for the last decade or so, with voters there turning out incumbents virtually every cycle since 2006.

The seat is currently held by Republican John Katko, who defeated Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei last year.

Deacon, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is among several Democrats vying for the nomintation there.

In a statement responding to the move from lean Republican to tossup, Deacon knocked Katko over the minimum wage and paid family leave — two major issues facing state lawmakers in Albany this month.

“My opponent John Katko has extreme positions against working families here in Central New York,” said Democratic candidate Colleen Deacon. “He doesn’t support a gradual increase in the minimum wage, he doesn’t support paid family leave. He talks about creating jobs yet he isn’t doing anything to actually address this issue. It’s no wonder the hard working men and women of Central New York are looking for a change – Congressman Katko just won’t stand up for the things that matter to them most.

NY-24: In Fundraising Appeal, Deacon Highlights Paid Family Leave

A fundraising email, sent through the list of her old boss U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, congressional hopeful Colleen Deacon alludes to the push on both the state and national level for a paid family leave program.

“When I became pregnant, my job offered no health care or benefits – so I was forced to quit just after my son, Adrian, was born and rely on government assistance to keep us healthy,” writes Deacon, who is running for the central New York congressional district currently led by first term Rep. John Katko. “I was lucky to have a supportive family and access to the help I needed, but not everyone can say the same. I know how hard it can be to make ends meet, and I have the perspective it takes to go to Washington and fight for working families.”

The appeal comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York is pushing for a 12-week paid family leave program in the state as part of the budget, due at the end of this month.

Gillibrand, a former House member herself before she was elevated to Hillary Clinton’s old Senate seat, has made a point of pushing for more Democratic women to occupy elected office on different levels of government.

Deacon is a former regional representative for Gillibrand’s central New York office.

Deacon is one of several Democrats vying to take on Katko later this fall in a June Democratic primary.

NY-24: Independence Party Endorses Katko

The state Independence Party on Thursday endorsed freshman Republican Rep. John Katko for re-election in central New York’s 24th congressional district.

“We in the Independence Party of New York believe government can only do its best for the people of this country by reaching across party lines to accomplish the work needed,” said Chairman Frank MacKay. “Congressman Katko has had this as his core principle since he first went to Washington. We are proud to once again endorse him.”

The Independence Party is a separate ballot with a politically nebulous agenda. The party has been accused of essentially being a shell organization for patronage and confusing to voters who believe they are registering as independent or “blank” — i.e., not in a political party.

But the ballot line could be key for a district that has been a swing seat for the last several election cycles. Katko unseated Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei in 2014, who in turn had unseated the woman he last to in 2012, Republican Ann Marie Buerkle.

“I am honored and thankful for the continued support of the New York State Independence Party,” Katko said.

“I’m proud to be an independent and responsive voice for Central New York in Congress, focusing on the issues that matter most to families and individuals in our community and working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground. I will continue to advance bipartisan solutions on the issues that matter most to Central New York, including addressing the devastating rate of poverty, growing our local economy, combating the heroin epidemic, and working to strengthen our national security.”