Republican Congressional candidate John Katko has taken a sudden lead over incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei in the race for New York’s 24th congressional district, according to a new poll by the Siena College Research Institute and the Syracuse Post-Standard.
The poll states that Katko now leads Maffei by 10 points, a surprise to some, as Katko trailed Maffei by eight points in the last Siena poll in September. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
“Campaigns, political parties and outside groups spend millions of dollars to produce mailings and commercials aimed at educating, influencing and moving voters,” Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said. “The results of that effort can clearly be seen in the 24th congressional district, as voters have shifted dramatically and now support Katko – who had been trailing by eight points – giving him a 10-point lead against the incumbent, Maffei. Katko has effectively brought Republicans ‘home,’ increasing his lead among them from 44 points to 71 points. And he’s increased his lead among independents from seven points to 21 points.”
New York’s 24th congressional district consists of all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and the western part of Oswego County, and includes the cities of Syracuse, Auburn, Fulton and Oswego.
“While Maffei continues to hold a commanding 32-point lead in Syracuse, down from 48 points, Katko has opened a 21-point lead in the rest of Onondaga County and a 13-point lead in the other counties. The areas outside of Syracuse had previously been neck-and-neck,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg also said Katko had been running slightly ahead of Maffei with men and trailing badly with women. Now, he has a narrow five-point lead with women and a larger 16-point lead with men.
“A swing that large is hard to believe, given the district and the campaign so far,” said Grant Reeher, a political science professor at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. “Maybe there has been some momentum for Katko, but I imagine that may be settling back down now. I just don’t have the feel that the gap is that large at present. It would be surprising. One question is how the respondents were filtered. Each poll makes a determination of what a likely voter is, based on some responses to initial questions about likelihood to vote. Maybe they only took the people who were the very most likely to vote.”
Maffei’s campaign responded to the Siena results with their own poll from the Global Strategy Group. That poll showed the congressman with a five-percentage point lead.
The narrowed race for this district has garnered national attention and has proven to be one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation. Several Washington, D.C. insiders have stepped foot in the district to support their party’s candidates. U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio came to the district to headline a fundraiser for Katko’s campaign. In August, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden stopped in Syracuse for a fundraiser as well. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California visited Auburn and spoke to Katko and reporters there. Congressman Maffei had Vice President Joe Biden and former president Bill Clinton address voters in Syracuse in the last two weeks.
This week’s Siena poll has suggested why national leaders are interested in the area. The district has created a reputation for a battleground area in the last few elections. Maffei was first elected to what was then the 25th district in 2008, unseating Republican James Walsh, who had held the seat for 16 years. Maffei was the first Democrat to hold the seat since 1965. In 2010, Maffei lost the seat to Republican Ann Marie Buerkle, then unseated her by a very narrow margin in 2012.
“The district is relatively evenly balanced on the whole. There are different parts with different tilts,” Reeher said. “Certainly the city tilts heavily Democratic and many of the suburbs tilt Republican. That and other demographics of the district contribute it to being a competitive district, and one that is generally moderate.”
Both candidates will be campaigning heavily in the last few days of the election season. The midterm elections are Nov. 4.
Neither Maffei nor Katko’s campaign responded to requests for comment.