National Democrats Wade, Uninvited, Into New York House Race


“I’ve had 26 bills pass the House and on every single bill, the first person is a Democrat,” he said, referring to legislation he has co-sponsored relating to antiterrorism and the opioid crisis, among other things. “I don’t introduce a bill unless I have a Democratic co-sponsor. I think I’m showing how bipartisanship works.”

Mr. Katko also is a co-leader of the Tuesday Group, a moderate caucus of House Republicans. Before the presidential election, he made no secret of his distaste for the Trump campaign, withdrawing his support after the release of the raunchy “Access Hollywood” tape. On the 2016 presidential ballot, Mr. Katko said he wrote in Nikki Haley, now President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Still, he appeared reluctant to criticize Mr. Trump’s tumultuous tenure in the White House. “He’s got a long way to go,” he said, adding that “it’s very hard to judge a president.”

In a contest that often turns on money, Mr. Katko has a war chest that dwarfs those of his Democratic challengers. Ms. Balter has raised only $193,000, compared to his $1.4 million. Ms. Perez Williams’s candidacy is too nascent for her fund-raising to be reflected on the Federal Election Commission website.

The other critical number in the race here is voter registration, with unaffiliated voters, or independents, making up a sizable chunk of the electorate. There are 116,000 independents in the 24th District, compared to 159,000 registered Democrats and 148,000 registered Republicans.

“Someone like John Katko, who is a moderate Republican, can have crossover appeal, particularly with independents,” Mr. Perry observed.

Mr. Perry said that other Republicans in the House delegation from New York — Claudia Tenney came to mind — might rue their fervor for President Trump in the midterm elections, when Democratic turnout is expected to surge. By contrast, Mr. Katko’s calculated distance could serve him well, he said.


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