House Democrats’ campaign arm, launching its first general election TV ad, is focusing on a seat the party wants to flip rather than one of the dozens it’s defending.
The target is Rep. John Katko, one of three Republicans elected in 2018 in a district Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. He’s represented New York’s 24th District since 2015 and has found support for his moderate views and history of bipartisanship.
Katko faces a rematch with Dana Balter, who lost by 5 percentage points in 2018.
The ad is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s first independent expenditure of the 2020 general election. It highlights funding Katko received from special interest groups, as well as his votes for Republicans’ 2017 tax overhaul (Public Law 115-97) and opposing a Democratic-supported bill to lower drug prices (H.R. 3).
“Katko used to be different,” the announcer says at the opening of the DCCC ad. “But no matter what he says, Washington changed him.”
It’s one of several ads currently airing in the district, according to Advertising Analytics. In addition to the DCCC’s ad, two others disparage Katko: one from Democratic-allied nonprofit House Majority Forward on his record in Congress and one from Balter’s campaign tying Katko to Trump.
The Katko campaign is airing an ad on bipartisanship, and a spot from the Republican-allied nonprofit American Action Network praises his work in Congress to lower drug prices.
Katko’s campaign released another ad attacking Balter as “dangerous” and dusting off several issues from 2018, including Balter’s support for policies that could increase taxes and backing a state expansion of who is eligible for bail.
“No amount of television advertising can change the fact that Dana Balter is a radical socialist,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Carly Atchison. Balter, she said in a statement “wants to raise taxes on New York families and supports the dangerous bail reform law that is allowing violent criminals to roam free.”
Both party committees are are paying close attention to the district, each naming Balter and Katko respectively to candidate programs to boost their attention and fundraising.
Balter wasn’t one of the Democratic challengers in the DCCC’s Red to Blue program who outraised a Republican incumbent. Balter had $253,000 in cash on hand at the end of June, while Katko had $1.5 million.
The district, which includes Syracuse, is a natural one for a competitive race. It’s flipped between Democratic and Republican representatives for the past two decades and is one of the few ticket-splitting House districts.
Katko’s voting record reflects his swing district. He was ranked the second-most bipartisan House member in 2019 by the Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org