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Rep. Katko Calls on Opponent to Step Down from "Fringe Group" CNY Solidarity Coalition

Scott Willis

Election day is less than three weeks away, and Congressmember John Katko says it’s time for his opponent to denounce what he calls a radical and out-of-touch resistance group.

"If Dana Balter is serious about being a bipartisan voice for our community in Washington, she should step down immiediately  from the CNY Solidarity Coalition.  She should disavow their radical activities, and should pledge to the district that she won't campaign with them."

Katko says Central New York deserves an independent voice in Congress, and Dana Balter’s participation with the coalition indicates she’s not a bipartisan candidate.  Katko says the group’s hostile and aggressive tactics have no place in this campaign.  He recalled a confrontation from May of last year outside Dewitt Animal Hospital, when more than a dozen protesters led by Jonah Minkoff-Zern held a car door open while pressing Katko on President Trump’s tax returns.

"How dare you sit in that car and ignore us!" A woman can be heard yelling at Katko.

"Since you promised you would vote to reveal Trump's taxes, you voted no seven times.  Seven times!  Please sign the discharge petition.  We are asking you to sign the discharge peition.   We want an answer!  Answer the question!"  Minkoff-Zern demanded repeatedly as he held the car door open.

"You represent us!  You have to do your damn job!" the woman yelled.

"When's the last time a congressional race has had this kind of vitriol, resistance, and nastiness?  Never," Katko said as he stood in the wind-blown rain outside Lockheed Martin's Salina headquarters Wednesday.  

"That's not how we do it here in Central New York.  We sit down, have a beer, and talk about it.  That's what I've always done.  Sometimes we don't always agree on the issues, but we try to find common ground.  That's what we need to get back to.”                       

Katko says Balter was part of the group’s protest last month targeting workers at Lockheed Martin with what he calls nasty signs and rhetoric.  He also believes the group is responsible for sending threatening letters to his home address.  The U.S. Secret Service is currently investigating the source and content of the messages.  Katko says he has no problems with protesting, but believes Balter should separate herself from the coalition.

"She's not only part of that group; she's one of the founding members.  That group's total goal is to resist...resist everything the other side is doing.  You can have pitched battles on the playing field.  That's no problem.  I don't begrudge that at all."

That playing field he refers to includes campaign ads.  Katko has approved ads that target Balter, and a fact check by other media found some to be inaccurate and misleading. 

Katko believes voters want a moderate candidate this term and that he has a track record for being bipartisan as a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus.   He notes he’s making progress in areas including healthcare and infrastructure, but groups like the CNY Solidarity Coalition will set them back.  

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