Registered democrats will go to the polls Tuesday in the 24th congressional district to choose who they’d like to see replace incumbent republican John Katko. In the first of our series on the upcoming primary, we hear what motivated political newcomers Steve Williams, Colleen Deacon, and Eric Kingson to run for congress.
Running for office, especially for a congressional seat, is something candidates can’t take lightly. There’s the impact on family. Then there’s hiring a campaign staff, and fundraising to pay salaries and advertising. That’s not to mention the campaign trail itself, reaching out to voters. Syracuse University social work professor Eric Kingson says he’s concluded that things have to change.
“The people of Central New York and the people of our country are being given a raw deal,” Kingson said. “The economics of our society is benefiting the very well off. It’s undermining the dignity of hard-working people. Our politics are out of control. Money in politics is undermining our democracy.”
Baldwinsville lawyer Steve Williams shares those sentiments. He says the gap between the wealthy and middle class has widened in the past 15 years
“When I was a young guy, 10 years old, two-thirds of our population was considered middle class,” Williams. Now, less than half of our population is considered middle class. That scares me. It scares me for my children, it scares me for my little grandson, and we need to develop policy to change that trend.”
Colleen Deacon shares that concern. She relates it to her personal story as a single mom who had to rely on food stamps and WIC to get by until she landed a job in former mayor Matt Driscoll’s office.
“It’s a perspective that is not represented in Congress,” Deacon said. “How many members of Congress can actually say they’ve used the programs they’re voting on? How many members of Congress know what it’s like to be unemployed or under-employed? That’s why I want to go to Congress and represent this district, because of the experience I had.”
ECONOMY ONCE AGAIN TOP ISSUE FOR CANDIDATES & VOTERS
Central New York’s economy is clearly on the minds of the three candidates seeking the democratic nomination for the 24th congressional district. On Tuesday, democrats will decide which candidate they think has the best plan to create jobs.
It probably comes as no surprise that voters are telling the candidates on the campaign trail that lack of jobs is their biggest concern. Each candidate has their own assessment of the problem and how to address it. Baldwinsville attorney Steve Williams says unfortunately, the challenge is not new.
“We need jobs. We need opportunity. We’ve been bleeding jobs out of this district for decades,” Williams said. “In Onondaga County alone, since 1979, we’ve lost 33,000 high paying manufacturing jobs. That’s a trend that’s been damaging this district for decades.”
“I believe we need to address the issues of poverty and inequality,” Kingson said. “All of us are affected when people don’t have the opportunities to find work, get work, and grow in their work. When we have 39 percent of our children living in poverty in this city, it’s disgraceful.”
“I really want to help create policies to help people in this district be able to gain employment here,” Deacon said. “When I was in the senator’s office, I worked to help bring some federal dollars back, for instance, for a couple of our colleges for training programs for the craft food and beverage industry.”
Colleen Deacon also says she’s also worked with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to help fight bad trade deals to retain jobs. Syracuse University Professor Eric Kingson believes congress needs to close corporate loopholes that make it easier to send jobs overseas.
SOCIAL SECURITY, PAID FAMILY LEAVE, FIGHTING CORPORATE & POLITICAL POWER
Candidates for political office usually have one or two issues they’re passionate about and hope to tackle when elected. The democrats in the primary for the 24th congressional district are no exception.
Before he launched his campaign, Syracuse University social work professor Eric Kingson had spent the past 6 years or so building a national organization called Social Security Works. He says many people credit it with stopping cuts to social security, and bringing the idea of expanding the program to the presidential campaign.
“I want to see all of our social security expanded, not just for today’s old, but also for working people in their 50’s, 40’s facing a retirement income crisis,” Kingson said. “Two-thirds will not be able to maintain their standard of living, even if they work to 67. That’s a crisis. We have to address that.”
Meanwhile, Colleen Deacon wants to bring another kind of economic security to families based on her own experience.
“I want to be a champion for paid leave so people have an opportunity to take time off of work if they have a newborn child or have a sick parent, and not have to worry about paying rent or putting food on the table,” Deacon said. “That’s something that I experienced firsthand when I had my son, and I know how valuable it is not only for low-income families but for all families across this district.”
Deacon says she’s heard from numerous people on the campaign trail who share her story of leaving a job for family reasons without any insurance or benefits to fall back on. Baldwinsville lawyer Steve Williams says he wants to take his passion for fighting for the underdog to congress.
“For example, when union pension funds lost millions in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, I took on their cases, I represented them, I got their money back,” Williams said. “And I tell you, when I did that, I was fighting against these big white show law firms in Manhattan who looked at me as some country hick lawyer who didn’t know what was going on. I won those battles, I won those cases, I got money back for them.”
Williams says he takes pride in doing all he can for clients or constituents.
DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY WINNER HAS TO BE ELECTABLE DISTRICT-WIDE
The three democratic candidates seeking the nomination for the 24th congressional district have spent the past several months trying to reach voters in their own party. but they’re also trying to position themselves for the general election in November.
Primary candidates of any stripe always have to walk a fine line between appealing to their own party, and trying not to alienate the rest of the electorate in case they emerge victorious. Colleen Deacon was the regional director for senator Kirsten Gillibrand for more than six years…
“Party isn’t part of what we’re really focused on in this race and why I’m running,” Deacon said. “I’m running because I want to represent all the people of this district. When I worked in the senator’s office, we worked very closely with republican mayors, conservative town supervisors, Congressman Richard Hanna in the neighboring district who’s a republican. I worked very, very closely with him.”
Baldwinsville attorney Steve Williams feels his background and resume will hold up well among general election voters…
“If people look at what each of the candidates have done with their lives, I make the best candidate,” Williams said. “I’ve served my country. I’ve taken on very, very challenging cases in court. My candidacy and the positions that I hold will be received very favorably in this district.”
Syracuse University professor Eric Kingson says he has a record of making change in Washington through his advocacy for social security…without being of Washington.
“Part of what I can bring is experience, hopefully a little wisdom, hopefully some insight, and I bring a long of compassion to this,” Kingson said. “I also believe I can pull voters out of the republican column, and build the case for maintaining this district for democrats.”
Democrats in the 24th congressional district will head to the polls on Tuesday.