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CNY primary voters prepare to head to the polls to choose their favorite congressional candidate

Courtesy NYS Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment

Enrolled republicans and democrats in the 22nd congressional district are getting ready to cast their votes for who they think has the best chance to emerge as the winner in a general election. Early voting for the primary begins Saturday in Onondaga County. There’s no incumbent in the newly drawn district, which includes Onondaga, Madison, and Oneida counties. Syracuse University Political Science Professor Grant Reeher says a recent AARP poll points out the issues that 22nd district voters are most concerned about.

"The Democrats in this sample emphasize things that favor Democrats like gun control, abortion, voting rights, voter access, and so on. But I still think the two big issues are likely to be the economy and inflation and that one the largest, and then after that crime and safety. And so those are things that Republicans tend to be more trusted on."

Reeher says that same AARP poll of voters over 50 should be cause for alarm for democrats. He says in a race between a generic democrat and a generic republican, the republican comes out ahead by nearly 20 points. There are four democrats seeking the nomination amid those political headwinds, including nominee Francis Conole, Sarah Klee Hood, Sam Roberts, and Chol Majok. Reeher says they bring a combination of backgrounds and experience.

"If you think about these four candidates as a group, you've got a male veteran [Conole], a female veteran [Klee Hood], an African American [Roberts], and a refugee immigrant [Majok]. These are like the poster children of the different identities that the democratic party is trying to embrace and push. So I think from the party's perspective, it's just too bad you can't take all four of them and do some sort of mash up and have one candidate come out of there, but you have to choose one."

He says democratic voters have to decide how progressive do they want their candidate to be, especially when facing a republican. On the GOP side, Reeher says the big question facing Brandon Williams and Steve Wells is their allegiance to former president Trump.

"Brandon Williams is an out and out Trumper. It's interesting to note though, that neither of these two candidates Wells or Williams donated to Trump's campaigns. Williams is clearly the more supportive one. Wells has been a lot more quiet about this. I think he's kind of trying to have it both ways because he recognizes if the Republicans nominate the right candidate, he recognizes, I think that a really, really close association with Trump, early on that you can't then distance yourself from, is going to create some problematic baggage for him in the general election."

Both are businessmen who are hoping to keep the district red by following in the footsteps of fellow republican John Katko. But the outgoing congressman is decidedly more moderate, publicly denouncing Trump and not voting in lock-step with his party on recent legislation. WAER plans to profile the primary candidates over the next two weeks.

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