The 22nd Congressional district includes all of Onondaga, Madison and Oneida counties. The district has no incumbent.

Without an incumbent in Central New York’s new 22nd Congressional district, the Republican and Democratic primaries have become races to watch this election cycle.  

Four Democrats and two Republicans are vying to run for their parties’ nods in the November general election.  

The district is left without an incumbent after Rep. John Katko, a Camillus Republican, retired from Congress, Rep. Claudia Tenney moved into the new 24th Congressional district and the Congressional maps were redrawn. 

The 22nd’s current representative, Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, will move into the new 24th district, which includes areas West and North of Onondaga County and has a 22% edge in Republican voters. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats have a 2% edge in registration in the 22nd Congressional district, which includes all of Onondaga, Madison and Oneida counties as well as part of Oswego County. Democrats had a 4% edge in the old 24th Congressional district, which included Onondaga County.

Early voting for the races started last weekend and will continue through Aug. 21. Voting will pause on Aug. 22 and resume on Aug. 23, the last day to vote. 

Here’s a look at what’s happened so far in the races: 

Democratic race

Four candidates are vying for the Democratic line in November’s general election. They are: 

  • Francis Conole, an Iraq military veteran. Conole won the party’s designation in February and the support of the national Democratic Campaign Committee in June. Conole lost to former Democratic Congressional candidate Dana Balter in 2020. 
  • Sarah Klee Hood, an Air Force veteran, who has served on the DeWitt Town Council and works as a senior director of operations at CenterState CEO. 
  • Chol Majok, a current Syracuse Common Councilor, has worked for two previous state senators and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. 
  • Sam Roberts, a former Onondaga County legislator and New York State assemblyman.

The candidates largely agree on major issues. All four agreed in a debate hosted by Syracuse.com that Roe v. Wade should be codified with a federal law and that ownership of assault-style weapons should be limited. 

All except Conole supported at least $10,000 in student loan forgiveness. And while all of the candidates supported strengthening the Affordable Care Act, Klee Hood advocated for Medicare for All system and Conole said Medicare should be an option along with private insurance.

At the end of the debate, the candidates used closing statements to underline what sets them apart. 

Conole advocated for serious leadership that can “meet the moment” in a divisive time in American politics. Klee Hood said she’s already doing the work the community needs done in job development and climate policy.

Roberts highlighted his 14 years of legislative experience. Majok said he believes voters should choose someone who reflects the “lived experience and struggle of everyday Americans” and that he has those qualities. 

Funding from the Cryptocurrency industry has become a battleground in the Democratic primary. On Aug. 8, the same day as the first NY 22 Democratic debate, City & State published a story that found a Cryptocurrency billionaire spent $396,000 on mailers and television ads for Conole.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire, helps fund the Protect Our Future PAC. The PAC has spent $20 million nationwide on political races. Bankman-Fried has said the committee’s spending is on candidates looking to prevent the next pandemic.

Upstate New York has become a hotbed for cryptomining, the process by which cryptocurrency is made. The process has drawn criticism for its energy use and its environmental effects. 

Conole has significantly outpaced his opponents in fundraising. As of Aug. 10, his campaign had received more than $1 million in contributions. No other candidates had received more than $140,000.

Syracuse.com ran the first of several debates and forums involving the Democratic candidates. TV station News Channel 9 will be hosting its own debate on Aug. 18. 

On Saturday, all the candidates are invited to participate in a forum sponsored and co-hosted by Save the 16th and Central Current at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church. The event is open to the public at begins at 7 p.m.

Republican race

The Republican race has attracted more attention than the Democratic race, at least in part because of controversy. 

Steve Wells, who committed about $400,000 of his own money to the Congressional race, has so far refused several debate invitations. 

Syracuse.com hosted a 30-minute Q&A session with Brandon Williams because Wells declined to debate. On Monday, Syracuse.com reported Wells agreed to his own 30-minute Q&A session with the outlet. 

Brandon Williams, Wells’ only competition, doesn’t live in the district he would represent if elected. Williams lives about two miles outside the NY 22 Congressional district and has vowed to move into the district. 

Both Williams and Wells have helped found businesses. Williams founded a California-based software company while Wells helped found American Food and Vending Corporation, which provides vending machines, among other services. 

Williams has the Conservative Party’s endorsement and could choose to run against Wells and the Democrats’ choice in November should he lose the primary. 

He believes the biggest threat to the country is a growing left-wing socialist ideology, he said in a Q-and-A with Syracuse.com. He opposes abortion except in extreme circumstances, opposes regulations on assault-style weapons and opposes the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. 

Williams said the IRA will lead to more government spending and more inflation. He called inflation the biggest issue facing America right now. 

Wells has outraised Williams so far — mostly because Wells has committed $400,000 of his own money to the campaign. In all, Wells has accumulated more than $690,000 and has about $228,000 on hand. 

Williams has raised nearly $215,000 and has just shy of $136,000 to spend. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the House of Representatives, has jumped into the race to back Wells. It has spent more than $340,000 in the first half of August on ads. 

The PAC has often spent money to oppose Democratic candidates in the 22nd and 24th Congressional districts, though has less often spent money to support Republicans. 

It spent nearly $1.5 million to oppose Dana Balter in the 2020 election cycle and more than $10 million to oppose Democrat Anthony Brindisi in his runs against Republican Claudia Tenney in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles. 

Early voting in the New York 22 primaries started earlier this weekend. You can check out when and where to vote by going to the Onondaga County Board of Elections website, or by clicking here. 

Chris Libonati

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.