Katko fends off Balter’s challenge in New York’s 24th congressional race

Katko fends off Balter challenge in 24th congressional race

The Republican incumbent won his re-election bid over the Syracuse University professor by 6 percentage points
Published: November 7, 2018
Midterm Election Night: Republican incumbent John Katko retains his U.S. House seat  on Nov. 6, 2018.
John Katko celebrates the victory of his re-election late Tuesday night.

Republican incumbent John Katko has secured a third term as representative for New York’s 24th congressional district, defeating Democratic challenger Dana Balter, according to the Associated Press.

As results filtered in, it turned out to be closer race than Katko has ever fought before. He beat Democratic challenger Dana Balter by 6 points, with the final vote at 53.1 to 46.9 percent. In 2016, Katko beat challenger Colleen Deacon by 21 points, and in 2014, he beat incumbent Dan Maffei by almost 20 points. Though Katko is entering his third term in Congress, he’ll be in a brand new position: the minority.

Democrats gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in a decade, flipping 26 Republican-held seats by early Wednesday morning. Katko told his supporters who gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Syracuse that being in the minority party will be new to him, but emphasized that he’s ready to work for all his constituents.

“We’ll do the best we can to lead all of you, not just some of you, and not just Republicans,” Katko said, surrounded on stage by family and supporters. “And all the Democrats who didn’t vote for me, I understand your concerns, and I get it, and I will work hard to earn your trust moving forward.”

Midterm Election Night: Republican incumbent John Katko retains his U.S. House seat  on Nov. 6, 2018.
Congressman John Katko waves to supporters at the Sheraton hotel following his re-election.

Many analysts referred to this midterm as a “Referendum on Trump.” The Balter campaign painted Katko as being too affiliated with the president in ads like “90 Percent” that began with the words, “John Katko votes 90% with Donald Trump.” Katko pushed back at accusations like these, including at the final debate between the two hosted by WSYR.

Despite the often tense race between the two candidates, Katko praised and thanked Balter early in his victory speech for running a competitive campaign, even joking about the possibility of facing her in 2020.

“I want you to give a round of applause to my opponent, Dana Balter,” Katko said. “She ran a very good campaign. She’s a very tough opponent. And I really hope she doesn’t want to run again in two years because she’s tough.”

Dana Balter - 2018 Election Night
Syracuse University professor Dana Balter concedes from her congressional bid at the Onondaga County Democratic Committee election night party.

In a concession speech, Balter told an emotional crowd. “Together, we ran a campaign to bring government back to the hands of the people, where it belongs.”

Speaking over boos at the mention of her opponent’s name, Balter said she called Rep. Katko to congratulate him on a hard-won victory and shared her hopes for him to work hard in Congress for the New York 24th constituency.

Data provided by the New York board of elections showed that Balter won Onondaga County, where she consistently enjoyed a significant lead over Katko, by nearly 1,800 votes. However, Katko managed to sustain his high levels of support in the more rural areas of the district, Oswego, Cayuga and Wayne counties.

Holding back tears, Balter thanked the crowd for their grassroots support of her campaign. 

“Even though we didn’t get the result that we wanted tonight, I am so proud of what we have done,” she said. “This is more than an election, this is a movement for change. A movement that insists that every human being matters, every vote matters, and every voice matters.”