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%.
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.
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.
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.