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The Case Against John Katko


New NY-24 polling conducted on behalf of the DCCC shows Democrat Dana Balter leading John Katko 48-45 with Vice President Biden leading President Trump by 18 points (54-36). Reflecting the many ways Congressman Katko has morphed into just another Washington Republican, the Congressman’s favorability ratings stand even in the district (42– 40). The poll was conducted from 6/18-6/22, with a sample size of 400 and a margin of error of 4.9%.

 “Congressman John Katko’s embrace of Donald Trump only tells part of his story in Washington. His failure to hold drug manufacturers accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, his loyalty to special interests and his vote to give massive tax breaks to corporations at the expense of Central New York’s middle- and working-class families prove who Katko really is: a man changed. Dana Balter is running for Congress because she understands the challenges facing Central New Yorkers. In 2018, Dana gave Katko his toughest re-election fight yet and she’s ready to finish the job this November.” – DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos

This is just the latest sign that with her targeted outreach and engagement with voters across the district about the issues that matter most, along with her proven ability to fundraise, Balter is well positioned to take on and unseat Katko who will struggle to defend his loyalty to Trump in a district won by Secretary Clinton.

To: Interested Parties
From: Christine Bennett, DCCC Regional Press Secretary
Date: June 26, 2020
Subject: The Case Against John Katko

John Katko kept his distance from President Trump in 2016, but over the past year he has fully embraced the president. Katko caved to pressure from Washington Republicans and gave Donald Trump his full-throated endorsement for re-election. This curious decision came just one day after Donald Trump threatened to cut Medicare. With his endorsement, Katko revealed his true colors, scrapping his self-described independent persona and solidifying his role as a rubber stamp for the President’s reckless policies — the same reckless policies that NY-24 voters rejected in 2016.

But let’s not forget Katko’s repeated votes against New York’s working families. His vote against bipartisan efforts to lower the exploding costs of prescription drugs, his votes against funding for substance abuse treatment to address the opioid epidemic, and of course, his 2017 vote for the Republican tax law that gave tax cuts to big drug manufacturers. A vote he willingly took knowing how detrimental the bill could be for his constituents, as it disproportionately hurt Central New Yorkers by capping the SALT deduction, haunts him to this day. What’s more, the bill came with a hefty price tag, adding trillions to the national debt, which Katko planned to pay for by cutting Social Security, Medicare and other benefits for the most vulnerable.

John Katko, who once criticized his predecessor as being beholden to special interests, received a donation from big drug manufacturer after voting against H.R. 3, a bipartisan bill to lower the price of prescription drugs, and has received over $80,000 from the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry throughout his time in Congress. John Katko’s mixed record on the opioid epidemic and his votes against funding for treatment of addiction also raises eyebrows.

One of just three remaining Clinton districts held by a Republican running for re-election, NY-24 is longing for change. Katko heads into a general election with less cash than other vulnerable Republican members in the state and faces bullish Democrats who have not let up on him all cycle. Donald Trump is likely to lose this district and drag Katko down with him.

Dana Balter is a lifelong educator who recently taught at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. A longtime advocate for Americans with disabilities, Dana began her career as a teacher and director of education for a disability services nonprofit. In 2018, Dana ran an unprecedented grassroots campaign to defeat John Katko, swinging the district 16 points and breaking volunteer and fundraising records along the way. Balter is running for Congress again in 2020 to finish the job.

And as new polling indicates, Katko faces his toughest re-election fight to date.


HEADLINE: Our View: Katko Must Not Continue To Ignore Trump’s Actions [The Auburn Citizen, 11/10/2019]

HEADLINE: Democrats Using Billboard, Digital Ads To Slam Rep. Katko For 2017 Tax Law Vote [The Auburn Citizen, 8/21/2019]

EDITORIAL: Our view: Katko Must Be Stronger In Trump Criticism [The Auburn Citizen, 9/29/2019]

Despite the plain evidence we all can now see, Katko on Friday resisted making any direct criticism of Trump in this matter. Instead, he focused his ire on Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, joining the chorus of other Republicans in Congress.


The problem with the timid approach of Katko and other moderate Republicans is that it only encourages more abuse of power by the president. The response to the Russia investigation proves that. And unless people like Katko stand up and strongly demand that Trump clean up his act, the president will only continue to escalate his actions and further destabilize our nation.

HEADLINE: In TV Ad, Dana Balter Tells Democrats She Will ‘Finish The Job’ Against John Katko [The Auburn Citizen, 5/29/2020]

HEADLINE: Dana Balter Endorsed By Top NY House Democrat, Prominent Freshman Rep Before Primary [The Auburn Citizen, 6/18/2020]

“U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, tweeted Wednesday that he is endorsing Balter, D-Syracuse, in the 24th district’s Democratic primary. Balter and Francis Conole are vying for the party’s nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko. 

“We can flip at least two more Republican seats in New York this year,” wrote Jeffries, who is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus. “One of them is in Syracuse. And (Balter) is the one to do it.” 



Katko is closer to Donald Trump than ever, and observers have noted a “rightward shift in Katko’s record” this year. Katko endorsed Trump for re-election in 2020 after refusing to vote for him in 2016. Local press has slammed Katko’s “timid approach” to Trump, saying “it only encourages more abuses of power by the president.”

At a time when Americans were reeling from the news that the President had asked a foreign country to interfere in our elections, Katko cozied up to the Trump administration at Camp David to discuss their impeachment strategy. Katko then said he was “proud” of his vote against Trump’s impeachment. Then Vice President Pence rewarded him and  personally called local political leaders to make it clear that “the Trump administration views Katko’s re-election as a high priority.” Katko was later caught on tape running (literally) from a constituent’s question about Trump’s role in inviting foreign interference into American elections.


New Yorkers know that prescription drug prices are out of control. Time and again, voters have named health care as a top political concern, but Kakto couldn’t care less. He sided with the corporate pharmaceutical industry that has given him more than $130,000 in campaign contributions and voted against a bill supported by Democrats and Republicans that would hold drug companies accountable and give Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices on insulin and other critical drugs.

John Katko sought to portray himself as a focused on the opioid epidemic, but his votes against funding for treatment of addiction tell a different story.

Despite NY-24 having a nearly 19% drug death rate in 2017, Katko frequently voted against funding to combat the opioid epidemic, including a vote to block consideration of the Opioid Abuse Crisis Act. That bill provided $600 million in fully paid-for resources to address the opioid epidemic. He also voted against amending an opioid bill to appropriate $995 million for opioid grant programs.

And big drug manufacturers are making sure that we know that Katko is their guy – rewarding him for his tireless support. In 2014, John Katko ran as someone who’d bring change to Washington, but it’s clear that Katko is just another bought and paid for Washington politician.


Republicans lost the House in 2018 after everyday Americans rejected the massive tax scam they passed to give wealthy corporations a handout on the backs of middle class families. Congressman John Katko’s vote for this massive corporate handout is a reminder that he doesn’t share the concerns of working New Yorkers in his district but is more focused on delivering for his special interest donors.

John Katko knew how devastating the GOP’s tax scam could be and voted for it anyway. In the months proceeding the vote, Katko joined several Republicans from his home state in calling on the Trump Administration to reconsider its proposal to completely eliminate the state and local tax deduction. At the time, Katko acknowledged that the state and local tax deduction “affects New York disproportionately,” specifically “lower- and middle-income households: 85 percent of those who claim the SALT deduction earn less than $200,000 in annual income.”

But by November of 2017 Katko had changed his tune, voting against an amendment to prohibit the repeal of SALT. A month later, when it came time to stand up for Central New Yorkers and halt this reckless bill in its tracks, John Katko voted for the GOP’s bill — one of only four Republican members from the New York delegation to do so.

It’s puzzling that John Katko would vote for a bill that he, by his own admission, knew would be detrimental to the state. As press and even his endorsed presidential candidate Donald Trump pointed out of Republicans like Katko who voted for the bill:

          “… They didn’t even put up a fight against SALT — could have won.”

The final tax bill scaled back the cap on state & local taxes to $10,000, which included SALT, property tax deductions, or a combination of both, eliminating savings on $8,526 worth of taxes for NY-24 homeowners. In 2016 29.9% of tax filers in Katko’s district took SALT deductions, deducting an average of $12,877.

Katko’s vote benefitted his special interest and wealthy donors most of all. The oil and gas industry, which has contributed over $270,000 to Katko, was one of the tax bill’s “largest and most long-lasting financial beneficiaries.” Big banks saved billions of dollars in taxes due to the bill, and Katko received over $500,000 from the financial industry and banks. And of course, the tax bill was a “major victory for pharma manufacturers,” including Katko’s donors.

Those benefits come with a price tag. The bill will add two trillion to the national debt which Republicans planned to pay for by slashing Social Security and Medicare Benefits.


New York’s 24th Congressional District is a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats. Senator Gillibrand and Schumer decisively won in the district in 2018 and 2016. Donald Trump lost this district by 4 points in 2016, will lose this district in 2020, and will drag John Katko down with him. Now polling shows Katko starting from behind, despite running as an incumbent.

Voters in this Central New York swing district – where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 18,000 – have finally had enough and will reject reliable Washington Republican John Katko and his support for Donald Trump.

Dana Balter came closer to beating John Katko than anyone before and is in a strong position to flip this seat. A recent poll conducted by the DCCC shows Balter leading the vulnerable Republican 48-45. Reflecting the many ways Congressman Katko has morphed into just another Washington Republican, the Congressman’s favorability ratings stand even in the district (42– 40).


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