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Election 2022: Conole, Williams face off for open Congressional seat left by Katko

An image of two photos edited together shows a man wearing a jacket stands with his arms folded on the left and then a man in a fleece vest on the right.
Brandon Williams/Twitter
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Scott Willis/WAER News
Republican Brandon Williams poses with his arms folded next to an image of Francis Conole posing at his campaign headquarters.

The wide-open race for Central New York’s redrawn 22nd Congressional District is living up to expectations as one of the most competitive in the country. Most recent polls have shown Democrat Francis Conole and Republican Brandon Williams in a statistical dead heat.

Conole and Williams don’t agree on much, leaving voters with seemingly clear-cut choices. At the same time, voters may find it hard to know where the candidates stand when they accuse each other of being inconsistent and misleading on key issues. Conole, the Democrat, said he has a list of priorities to tackle so-called kitchen table concerns.

“I've talked about the importance of implementing true middle class tax cuts, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, really doing what we can to achieve energy independence and to lower gas prices," Conole said. "Then finally taking a longer term look at what's going on with the supply chains and how we can continue to build things here at home and to invest in building things here at home.”

Conole said that includes Micron’s 20-year, $100 billion commitment to manufacture semiconductors in Clay. Now, he said the region has to prepare the infrastructure and workforce.

“We've got to make sure our young people and our workforce is ready to take advantage of these jobs. So I'd like to see greater investment in terms of grants and federal investment in job training, apprenticeships, to make sure that we can fill these jobs locally," he said.

Conole, a captain in the Navy Reserves, said the hard-won CHIPS and Science Act was an example of bipartisan work that paid off for Central New York. Republican Brandon Williams said he would have supported the CHIPS act, but said it’s full of unnecessary spending.

“There was $50 billion for chip manufacturing, and there was $200 billion of other—and if we are going to have a responsible government, we need to do the things that are strategic, like bring chip manufacturing back to the United States, but we need to cut out this $200 billion of bloat that is driving inflation in the United States," Williams said.

The bill did not fund $200 billion in research money. Williams spoke at a Syracuse.com debate hosted by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. He has not responded to numerous requests for an interview with WAER going back to the primary. Williams, a U.S. Navy veteran, said a vote for his opponent will be a vote for continued inflation.

The truth is, when you go to the grocery store, decide who you want to vote for when you fill up your car, decide who you're going to vote for. We cannot afford to heat our homes and send more progressive left to Congress," he said.

Williams calls himself a political outsider, while trying to link Conole to President Joe Biden’s “disastrous policies” that he claims have caused inflation. Conole, meanwhile, has stressed that he’d like to continue the example of bipartisanship set by outgoing Congressmember John Katko, not to mention others such as Jim Walsh, Anthony Brindisi, and the late Richard Hanna. Conole said Williams’ views just don’t fit with Central New York’s historically moderate ideology.

We have a choice between someone who knows Central New York, whose family lived here for generations, who is advancing a plan that puts people over politics.  Or, someone who is adheres more,  to the extremes that wants to ban abortion across the country, even in the instances of rape and incest, and has been rejected by his own party because of fringe and extreme views.”

Williams did not get the nod from county party leaders in the district, but voters clearly thought differently in the primary. At the Syracuse.com debate, Williams said there shouldn’t be a federal level ban on abortion, and that it should be left to the states. He said as someone who’s started and operated successful tech companies, he knows what the region needs to succeed.

“It is critical that Central New York thrive again. But to do that, we need competent leadership. We need people that know how jobs actually are created in the real economy. We need people that aren't beholden to the political machine, that has produced other candidates that you've seen for decades. and take New York into a future of prosperity instead of decline.”

Voters in the compact 22nd Congressional District have until Tuesday to decide whom they feel will best represent them in Washington, D.C. The district includes all of Onondaga, Madison, and Oneida Counties, and a small sliver of southeastern Oswego County.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.