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The Citizen: 5 reasons why Colleen Deacon won Democratic congressional primary in central NY

June 30, 2016

The Citizen: 5 reasons why Colleen Deacon won Democratic congressional primary in central NY

by Robert Harding

Colleen Deacon cleared the first hurdle Tuesday in her attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. John Katko. 

Deacon, D-Syracuse, won the Democratic primary in the 24th Congressional District, defeating fellow Democrats Eric Kingson and Steve Williams in the three-way race. 

For those who have been following the race, especially over the past month, the result wasn't surprising. Deacon had three ads running on broadcast and cable TV stations before the primary. She also built a strong campaign infrastructure that not only prepared her for the primary election, but the general election as well. 

Here are five reasons why Colleen Deacon won Tuesday's primary: 

(1) Key Democratic support. We'll get to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's support later on. But it helped Deacon to have several key endorsements from local officials. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner endorsed her. Auburn Mayor Michael Quill did the same. The four county Democratic committees in the district — Cayuga, Onondaga, Oswego and Wayne — all supported her. (Onondaga endorsed her outright. Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne split the endorsement between Deacon and Williams.) 

That helped, especially in a primary with low voter turnout. 

(2) U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Deacon's former boss — she was Gillibrand's central New York regional director before running for Congress — has been a major asset to her campaign. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was the first to support Deacon and contributed where she could, whether it was by sending a fundraising email or joining Deacon for a press conference in the Syracuse area. 

Expect Gillibrand to play an even bigger role now that Deacon has won the primary and is shifting her attention to Katko, R-Camillus, in the 24th District race. 

(3) Her campaign. You could make the case that this primary was won months ago. Deacon's campaign seemed to be more organized than the rest. Did the establishment support help? Sure. But there also appeared to be more excitement about her candidacy. That makes a difference. She not only had a strong volunteer base, but she had a lot of young people involved. 

That will help her going forward as she prepares to challenge Katko in the general election. 

(4) Her story. Deacon has shared her personal story many times on the campaign trail. The summary: She was working as a waitress 13 years ago when she became pregnant with her son. Her employer didn't offer paid leave, so she had to quit her job shortly before she delivered her son, Adrian. 

After her son was born, she relied on food stamps, Medicaid and WIC before being hired by then-Syracuse Mayor Matthew Driscoll. 

It's a story that resonates with voters. Many people in the district can relate to that experience. 

(5) Onondaga County. The three candidates spent a lot of time in their home county, and with good reason. That's where the most voters are. Very few yard signs could be spotted in Cayuga County. In a primary with low turnout, Onondaga County was the key battleground. 

Deacon locked up the nomination with a strong performance in Onondaga County. She received 4,731 votes there. Kingson and Williams needed to pick up votes in other counties in order to win, but that wasn't going to happen on Tuesday. Deacon won Cayuga and Oswego counties, too. (Kingson won Wayne — a small consolation prize.) 

Onondaga County will be important in the general election, as it always is. Deacon and Katko will fight for votes in the city of Syracuse and towns throughout the county. But with more voters expected to head to the polls, Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne counties can play a bigger role in determining the outcome. You'll likely see both candidates spend a lot of time in those areas leading up to the November election.