Francis Conole Surges Ahead in Polls with Days Left Until Election Francis Conole Surges Ahead in Polls with Days Left Until Election

Recent polls have shown Francis Conole in the lead over Brandon Williams

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — New York’s 22nd Congressional district race is one of the most competitive U-S House races in the country and could make an impact on whether the House is controlled by the Democratic or Republican party. Although this race is critical, the candidates running are largely unknown by voters.

Francis Conole, the Democratic nominee, has previous experience as the Syracuse City Chair of the Onondaga County Committee. Born and raised in Onondaga County, he has marketed himself as a local veteran looking to represent the newly drawn 22nd Congressional district.

In September, Siena College and Spectrum News came out with a poll saying that 55% of voters are not familiar with Francis Conole or have no opinion of him. Since then he has increased his presence in the community and participated in public debates with Brandon Williams leading up to election day. A more recent poll came out on November 4th showing that Conole is favored by 4% over Williams. Whereas in September, Williams was favored to win by 5%.

ANDREW MACBEATH: Francis Conole, Democrat for Congress in the 22nd district, was raised in Onondaga County and is using that to his advantage in the campaign since his GOP opponent doesn’t live in the district.

CHRIS FARICY: He can say he is from Central New York in a way that the, Williams cannot. He can say he is a mainstream, moderate Democrat, where he can portray Williams as being a more extremist candidate.

MACBEATH: Dr. Chris Faricy, a political scientist from the Maxwell School of Citizenship, says Conole can also play up the recent endorsement from Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh – an independent.

FARICY: For Conole, it might signal to people who think of themselves as “independent” that Walsh is also an independent, so it might move them off the fence to supporting a Democratic candidate.

MACBEATH: With Syracuse mayor Ben Walsh fully supporting the Democratic candidate, Conole hopes to keep the people of Central New York on his side, and the debate last night allowed him to fully cement himself as a champion for the 22nd district.

FRANCIS CONOLE: We are gonna have to meet this moment, but this moment is not going to be met by the extremes of one party, it’s gonna be met by working together, so thank you so much.

MACBEATH: Conole is trying to appeal to to voters who may be tired of all the bickering, even though both candidates Conole and republican Brandon Williams, have spent millions of dollars painting each other as extremes in vicious attack ads. While the candidates don’t have a lot in common, Conole and Williams both served in the US Navy. Andrew MacBeath, NCC News.

One of the strong advantages for Francis Conole is his relatability to voters. Conole is a current resident of the 22nd Congressional district, while Williams lives outside of the district borders. This may have benefited him in the most recent polling and, combined with his local campaigning, has improved his stance with voters. 

Chris Faricy, a political scientist from the Maxwell School of Citizenship, said that this election is incredibly important, especially with the back-and-forth in the polls.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in this midterm compared to past midterms. There’s uncertainty in this race in particular because the district lines were redrawn, there is no incumbent on the ballot, and there are national political forces that are pushing things towards Republican,” Faricy said.

Conole has also benefited from his various endorsements including, NY State Assembly Member Al Stirpe and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. With Mayor Walsh endorsing him as an independent, it could show other independent voters that he should get their support. On the other hand, endorsements are not the most important in elections, said Faricy.

“Endorsements just mean a little bit. When a voter goes into the voter box, they can see the D or R after the name, so they can see the partisanship of the candidate before they vote,” said Faricy.

MICHAEL VILLEGAS: Both of New York’s 22nd congressional district candidates Francis Conole and Brandon Williams served in the navy…and have played it up during the campaign. With veterans day coming up, local veterans are thinking about who to support on election day.

DR. RICK WRIGHT: Veterans who have served the country, have a real sense of what needs to be done.

VILLEGAS: Dr. Rick Wright… retired captain in the United States Navy…expresses his concern with the lack of veteran representation in Washington D.C.

DR. WRIGHT: We have people in congress who have never been in the military and they’re controlling the purse strings but how in God’s creation can you control the purse strings of people who need something and you’ve never been involved in the situation that they’re in. I’m really a big advocate that we should be electing people to congress who are veterans.

VILLEGAS: With Brandon Williams and Francis Conole both serving in the military, active duty and veterans say not only their issues separate them but their jobs and responsibilities while they were serving.

RYAN BREEDEN: It’s just between two veterans, what they represent and then what they’ve been through because as a veteran you can kind of look up what their career history was and that could play into their role for future politics. That can actually contribute to who I like more.

VILLEGAS: Having served their county has benefited current members of congress who are assigned to committees dealing with military, veteran and homeland security issues. Either way a veteran will be serving the 22nd congressional district after November 8th. Michael Villegas… N-C-C News.

Both candidates in the 22nd Congressional District race are veterans, which is one of the main points they are pushing in their campaigns. Conole graduated from the US Naval Academy and served in the Office of Naval Intelligence before he was reactivated and deployed with Army Special Forces, according to Conole’s campaign website. Conole’s campaign has trumpeted his naval experience and related it to the leadership that he will bring to the House. 

Dr. Rick Wright, a retired US Navy Captain, said that the lack of veterans or those with military backgrounds in Congress does not allow for veterans in our country to be accurately heard.

“People who are running for Congress leadership positions in the capital of the United States of America, the House of Representatives representing people right now, we have a lot of missing people who do not have military backgrounds,” said Dr. Wright.

With both congressional candidates having a military background, local veterans are having to make a decision based on the issues Conole and Williams are running on. Dr. Wright said Conole’ leadership experience, sets him apart from Williams because of the distinguishment he had while serving.

“[Conole] having leadership ability and the ability to analyze problems and find solutions for those problems. So that’s the real thing he’s really good at,” said Dr. Wright.

Although each veteran and active military member will have to make their own decision in this election, there will be one more US veteran in the 22nd Congressional District seat after the votes are counted.

MICHAEL EMAMI: The central New York house seat showdown between Francis Conole and Brandon Williams is heating up. Both candidates differ on gun issues. To this local gun owner, Conole and the democrats more restrictive stance on firearms, is concerning.

TIM NELSON: I don’t understand why they’re restricting the firearm; you’re not going after the individual that has the issue.

EMAMI: Tim Nelson’s intimidator sports shop has been in business since 2005. Selling many different brands, nelson is a firm supporter of the second amendment. He says he feels lawmakers are targeting the wrong people.

NELSON: I say most probably 95-98% of the people are responsible individuals that own firearms. We’re not going after that 5% of people that say they shouldn’t have them. That’s my belief.

EMAMI: While firearm regulations have a direct impact on gun owners, it stretches far beyond that, impacting many others who vote.

DUSTIN CZARNY: Firearm regulations seem to have an impact on every aspect of our life.

EMAMI: Czarny says gun related incidents such as school shootings have not only affected voters, but also voter access.

CZARNY: It makes finding polling places hard, because schools are amping up their security as they rightfully should.

EMAMI: In solving the problem of gun-related incidents, Nelson says restricting weapons isn’t the answer. It’s restricting irresponsible people.

NELSON: If your neighbor was a real Froot Loop, and he had firearms, wouldn’t you? You would probably be afraid to call but don’t you think you should call in and get somebody to at least pay attention? And we don’t do that. That’s our problem.

EMAMI: Nelson’s shop remains committed to background checking every purchase, saying he hopes others choose to do the same. Michael Emami, NCC News

One of the issues Conole is running on and has talked about in press conferences and debates is his stance on gun reform. According to Conole’s campaign website, he proposes to “reinstitute a federal assault weapons ban, pass universal criminal background checks on all gun sales, and red flag laws that will keep guns out of the hands of those who will do harm to others.” 

These stances on gun reform have set him apart from his opponent and have impacted local gun owners’ opinions on the candidates. Tim Nelson, a local gun shop owner, said that these gun reforms should be less about banning certain guns and more shifted towards background checks and ensuring those who try to buy guns are capable of the responsibility. 

Dustin Czarny, the Onondaga County Elections Commissioner, said that gun regulation and reform are important for the community as they impact more than those who own guns.

“Obviously, gun regulations will impact all of us and that’s why it’s important for you as a voter to determine where you stand on the issue, and then align yourself with a voter that is a candidate that aligns with your particular view, or as close to your view as possible,” said Czarny. 

The gun regulation Conole supports will limit the types of guns residents can purchase, but will also put limits and safety measures in place to keep residents of the district safe.

Conole is running on the Democratic line on the ballot. His opponent has both the Republican and Conservative party lines.

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