Republican candidate John Katko defeated Democrat incumbent Dan Maffei for New York’s 24th district in the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Less than two hours after the polls closed in New York state, Maffei conceded. Katko spoke vibrantly at the Onondaga County Republican headquarters at the Sheraton Hotel at Syracuse University.
“Voters are sending a fighter to Washington, I guarantee that,” Katko said. “We have problems in our country, we have problems in this district and we deserve better leadership in Washington.”
What was projected to be a close race turned into a land slide as Katko, a former federal prosecutor from Camillus, won by 58.59 percent of the vote compared to Maffei’s 39.22 percent, according to the New York State Board of Elections. Out of the 192,034 people who voted, Katko received 112,522 votes and Maffei received 75,315.
According to a September poll conducted by the Siena Research Institute, Maffei led Katko by eight points. By the following month in late October, Katko started to swing back with a 10-point lead over Maffei. In anticipation of a close race in the campaign’s final days, Rep. Maffei got a state supreme court order last Monday to impound all voting machines in the district once polls closed.
“I love a challenge and I said to myself, ‘We deserve better for this district and we deserve better for this country and what we have, both sides of the aisles, it is not just a Republican thing and not just a Democrat thing,’” Katko said. “We deserve better out of our leaders, we deserve to have better than a 10 percent approval rate for our congressmen. And you know, what we got to keep trying to get things better and that’s why I came into the race.”
The district’s race reflected the results of the rest of the country, with the GOP winning big races for state governors, House representatives, and gaining a majority in the Senate for the first time since 2006.
“It sends a message,” Katko said. “It sends a message that people want change and want moderation and they listen to that.”
Katko ended election night by leading the polls for all four counties that make up the 24th District. In Cayuga County, Katko led 62 percent to Maffei’s 35 percent; Onondaga County, Katko led 56 percent to Maffei’s 42.26 percent; Oswego County, Katko led 62 percent to Maffei’s 34 percent and Wayne County, Katko led 67 percent to Maffei’s 29 percent.
Despite his big wins, Katko did not take the opportunity to praise Republicans but embraced his hope for pursuing bipartisanship in the 114th Congress.
“Anyone want to know why I am wearing a purple tie?” Katko asked his crowd of supporters. “It is a combination of red and blue because we all have to come together, Democrats and Republicans.”
Katko extended his many thanks to his family and friends as he accounted for the effort they put forward on the campaign.
The victor was passionate about the changes he plans to bring for the district and the representation he plans to bring to Washington, D.C.
“We have some work to do, there is no question about it, and I’m not going starry eyed thinking we are going to light the world on fire,” Katko said. “When you have unemployment startlingly high here and manufacturers continuing to leave, we have to do something about it. I have a seven-point economic plan and we are going to do our best to get it into place.”
Around 10:40 p.m. on Election Night, Rep. Maffei entered the Onondaga County Democratic headquarters at the Oncenter in Syracuse and expressed his disappointment in the election results.
“We all love New York, we all love our region, we all love our country,” Maffei said. “And in our country, in our Democratic system, elections don’t always have the outcomes that we want.”
Maffei thanked his family and fellow supporters for their help over the years and effort in his latest campaign.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to represent the people of Central New York in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Maffei said. “I want to thank the thousands of Central New Yorkers who have joined me throughout this race and dedicated their time, energy and resources to support my campaign.”
Maffei’s loss is his third defeat in eight years and the district’s fourth consecutive party flip-flop – from Democrat to Republican, Democrat to Republican – since Maffei was first elected in 2008. Maffei lost the seat to Republican Ann Marie Buerkle in 2010 and then took it back in a rematch election with Buerkle in 2012. According to the archives of the U.S. House of Representatives website, only one other district in Congress (Arizona’s 1st congressional district) had changed parties three times since Barack Obama’s first election and had the chance to change again a fourth time Tuesday. Previous to Maffei’s first election six years ago, the district had voted Republican for nearly 40 straight years.
“I think what we’re seeing in this district is a bellwether for what’s going on around the country,” Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said. “You’re seeing the country kind of go back and forth as both parties struggle to find a message and a record of accomplishment.”
This fluctuation pattern in Central New York led a lot of national attention to the area from some well-known figures to sway voters to one side or the other. In the month leading up to Election Day, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton visited the district to support Maffei. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy came to support Katko. Katko, along with two other Republican candidates, one from northern New York and one from Long Island, were viewed by House Republicans as vital candidates that could defeat their Democrat incumbents, and all did.
“Our region faces challenges, but also many opportunities,” Maffei said. “There is much work still to be done, from constituent casework to continuing to move the ball forward with legislative initiatives that will help grow our economy and create jobs. I am dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition with Mr. Katko’s office in the coming months.”
Katko will begin his term as the district’s new congressman on Jan. 3, 2015