Motivated by the people, Dana Balter wants to ‘fight for what’s right’ in Congress
If Dana Balter is elected to represent the 24th Congressional District, she says her motivation to do the job for the next two years will come from one source.
Balter, D-Syracuse, is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko in the 24th district, which includes all of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties, along with the western portion of Oswego County. This is her second run for Congress after Katko won their first meeting in 2018.
In an interview with The Citizen, Balter shared the story of a man she met during a campaign videoconference over the summer. She says he urged her to advocate for a better health care system because of his mother, who died because, as a diabetic, she couldn’t afford the insulin she needed.
“That story and the hundreds of others like it that I have heard are the reason that I’m doing this and they will be the motivation for getting up every day and going to work doing the job that’s difficult,” Balter said. “I know it’s going to be frustrating. We’re fighting uphill battles all the time. But his story and the stories of other people like him, and their willingness to share those stories and entrust me with those stories, that’s the motivation.”
As a member of Congress, Balter says her approach would focus on three areas: Laws and resources that improve the district, constituent services and strengthening democracy. She views the job of a representative as opening up the governing process to all people in the district and to encourage their participation. That’s why she supports open town hall meetings — she’s criticized Katko for not holding enough open forums during his tenure — and “two-way communication” between her office and constituents.
“Making sure that there are lots and lots of opportunities for people who live in every part of our community to contribute to the work that we’re doing so that their expertise comes to bear on the policymaking process and their needs and priorities are always at the forefront,” she said.
There are stark differences between Balter and Katko. Before she ran for office in 2018, she organized rallies urging him to oppose certain Trump administration policies and she criticized his refusal to participate in open town hall meetings where voters could ask him about any issue.
When she became a candidate, their disagreements on issues ranging from health care to the economy were evident. But she thinks their biggest difference isn’t limited to one policy issue. It’s about why they want to be a member of Congress.
“I talk all the time about the values that drive me, the idea of dignity, access and opportunity for every person,” she said. “I am running because of this core set of values that drive the way I see the world and how I understand what it means to be part of a democratic community and how we’re responsible to each other and how we can all work together to make life better.”
Balter continued, “I have never heard Congressman Katko articulate any values or principles or philosophies or ideas and how the world works and how the world should work that drive him to do this. I think what we see in the results of his time in office is that he is transactional and he does what’s politically expedient instead of fighting for what’s right.”
In her appeal to voters, Balter says if she’s elected she will spend her time aiming to improve the lives of her constituents. She thinks too many members of Congress don’t understand what life is like for average people in this country.
“I think the way we fix that is by sending people to Congress who know what the struggles are and who are committed to addressing them,” she said. “We need people who are willing to speak truth to power, people who are willing to stand up and fight for what’s right, even when it’s not easy, especially when it’s not easy, and that’s what voters will get with me.”
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.