SUNY Oswego Hosts NY-24 Democratic Candidate Forum

Two men and a woman sit in a row
Roger Misso, Francis Conole and Dana Balter (left to right) discuss a variety of issues. Photo by: Kassadee Paulo

OSWEGO – The three Democratic candidates for New York’s 24th congressional district discussed a variety of national issues at a forum last night, Wednesday, Nov. 20 at the Marano Campus Center at SUNY Oswego. 

One of the three candidates – Dana Balter, Francis Conole and Roger Misso – will go up against Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) in the 2020 election. Balter ran against Katko in 2018, but lost by five points. Cayuga, Onondaga, Wayne and part of Oswego counties make up NY-24.

Jessica Chachere and Alex Ehrenberg moderate the forum.

The forum, hosted by the College Democrats at SUNY Oswego and We The People of Oswego Indivisible, tackled cyber security, military spending, nuclear power, access to fresh food, support for the Democratic nominee, immigration, health care and the opioid crisis.

College Democrats President Alex Ehrenberg and Vice President Jessica Chachere moderated the discussion and audience members were able to ask questions. 

The candidates began by introducing themselves and why they are running for congress.

Syracuse native Conole spoke about the values he learned in western Onondaga county, beginning when he got his first job delivering newspapers at 11 years old. He graduated from the Naval Academy just a few months before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Following his service in the Navy, he served overseas in Iraq for the Army Special Forces. Conole spent 22 years in the military.

“I made the decision to run in this moment because I believe we are seeing our American values threatened,” Conole said. “We are seeing policies designed to only benefit the privileged while excluding so many of us in Central New York.” 

Balter, also from Syracuse, talked about growing up with a younger brother with a cognitive disability, and how she learned from him that everyone is entitled to dignity, access and opportunity. She said she wants to fight for access to health care, to get big money out of politics and a society that works for everyone.

“We can incredibly close to beating John Katko last cycle,” Balter said. “We have just 2.5 points to go. And the reason we came so close against such a tough opponent is because we weren’t just talking about an election; we were building a movement for change.”

Misso, a Navy veteran from Red Creek, spoke of his small town roots, his family’s dedication to public service, his service in the military, being a victim advocate of sexual assault survivors in the military, and working in the Pentagon and congress. He said as a “small town kid,” he is proud to bring his two decades of experience back to represent the people of NY-24.

“[Growing up in Red Creek,] government was not a thing that we were allowed to participate in. Government happened to us from somebody else from far away, but it was not of us,” Misso said. “This campaign is about deliberately rewriting the narrative of government to write back in rural folks, young folks, people of color, people with disabilities, people across this congressional district who have been left out for so long.”

Over the course of two hours, the three candidates discussed several issues and how they would go about handling them in congress. Another article will be posted at a later time detailing these issues.

Congressman Katko was invited to the forum, but declined. The Primary election to determine which Democratic candidate will run against Katko in 2020 will be held June 23, 2020. The General election will be Nov. 3, 2020.