Memorial Day weekend is normally a time when Central New York political candidates appear at parades or maybe on your doorstep. That can’t happen this year, and the 24th district democratic congressional primary is only a month away.
Onondaga and Cayuga County designee Francis Conole remembers going to parades throughout the district last year right after launching his campaign.
"I'm extremely grateful that I was able to be out on the trail engaging with so many Central New Yorkers for over a year now. Now, during this time of COVID, it is a challenge, but I will tell you there are people across the region facing real serious challenges."
He says some of them are life and death situations, and others are economic related to the shut down economy and the loss of jobs. Opponent Dana Balter has the backing of Oswego County Democrats. She says the pandemic presents challenges traditional campaigning, but also opens up opportunities.
"Connecting virtually encourages some people who previously maybe didn't engage in political events to join. If you have the technology, it's pretty easy to do from home. In that way, we've been able to expand our reach and engage new people in the democratic process."
At the same time, Balter says it’s highlighted the digital divide and the lack of broadband access in urban and rural areas.
Both candidates have held virtual town hall meetings and are trying to set themselves part in the final weeks before the primary. Balter has the advantage of name recognition, but continues to make her case to voters about where she stands on the issues. For his part, Conole says his 22-year career in the military and department of defense has prepared him for operating in a crisis environment like a pandemic. Both seem more focused on defeating republican John Katko, but only one of them can do it as a democrat after the June 23rd primary.