Democrat Balter Hopes to Tap Into Anger, Frustration in Campaign against Katko, after Primary Win

Jun 27, 2018

Dana Balter, coming off primary win, now sets sights on race with John Katko
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Democratic Congressional candidate Dana Balter can now turn her sights to November and the general election.  The campaign’s focus and challenges are central now that Tuesday’s primary is behind her.


The day after Dana Balter’s surprisingly convincing primary win, she’s pretty much campaigning as usual.

“I really don’t feel that it’s different.  My focus since the beginning of this race has been on flipping this seat, making sur that he people of this district have a representative who’s going to show up, who’s going to listen, and who’s going to stand up for them.”

"Balter has steep hill to climb, has to energize enthusiastic base," Dr. Grant Reeher

The primary victory over Juanita Perez Williams does give her a burst of energy … and perhaps made her even more motivated. 

She ran out of frustration that John Katko would not meet with residents and confront their issues.  She says she heard that same frustration out on the campaign trail … and believes that’s what will motivate people to vote in November.  Yet she knows the district is at least divided, if not polarized, over Katko’s performance, the Trump agenda and Washington in general.

“The key is that we have to, as a district and as a country, stop focusing on the things that divide us.  We really want the same things.  Everybody that I talk to wants a job that pays them well enough to support their families.  Everybody wants to be able to see a doctor when they need to.  Everybody wants good schools for their kids and safe communities to live in.” 

She believes campaigning on such common interests can bridge the political divide.  She claims not to be worried about a different divide, fundraising, after the national party backed her primary opponent.

“We know that this district is very important to the entire country and I expect that we’re going to get lots of support, not only from Washington, but from across the country.  And I will welcome that support because we need all the resources we can muster to take on John Katko in November.”

Balter says she’s not concerned about what Washington thinks though … her focus will be on the people she’s found to be fed up, angry ready for change … the ones who gave her the primary victory.


A professor of Political Science at Syracuse’s Maxwell School gave us his reactions to Dana Balter’s victory in the democratic primary for congress in the 24th district. Doctor Grant Reeher says he was struck by the magnitude of Balter’s victory over the National Democratic Party’s pick Juanita Perez-Williams. Democrats voted 62 percent in favor of Balter. Reeher says Balter’s grassroots victory is just one of many across the state and nation that display democrats’ desire for more progressive, further-left candidates.

“You don’t just see it in the 24th district, we’ve seen it in other primaries as well. Certainly the loudest voice is in the Queens district of Joe Crowley, where he lost a very stunning upset to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He had outspent her by a ten to one margin. He was active in his primary. Nonetheless, she won a convincing victory.” 

Reeher thinks Balter will face an uphill battle in the general election against incumbent John Katko. He says Katko has an impressive list of accomplishments in his two terms in congress. As an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, Katko can also differentiate himself from the conservative base of the Republican Party.

 “She will have to really figure out a way to convincingly link him more to the president and to that conservative core of the Republican party, and make that case in a convincing way. She’ll also need, I think, to further energize what seems to be a pretty energized, enthusiastic base of support for her. She has to figure out a way to really tap that energy and enthusiasm and catalyze it and really take it to another level.”

Reeher points out that only 16 percent of registered democrats voted in Tuesday’s primary, which is low despite being an improvement from previous years. He says a surge of democratic turnout is inevitable, given the looming figure of the President over November’s election. But given Katko’s popularity and Balter’s lack of political experience, only time will tell if that surge will carry her over the top and into Congress.