Steven Williams, a former U.S. Navy JAG Corps officer and prominent Syracuse lawyer, will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. John Katko for the Syracuse-area congressional seat.
Williams, 52, of Baldwinsville, planned to file paperwork Monday declaring his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C.
He becomes the third Democrat to formally seek his party's nomination for the 24th Congressional District seat and the right to challenge Katko, R-Camillus, in the 2016 election.
Williams, a partner in the Syracuse law firm Smith Sovik, had considered running for Congress and the State Senate several times in the past, but ultimately decided not to seek the Democratic nomination.
This time, Williams said, he decided to launch a campaign because he believes the stakes are too high for Central New Yorkers and the middle class.
"I think this is a crucial time for our country," Williams told syracuse.com. "The earnings gap between the super- rich and the middle class has been widening consistently for the past 13 years. This is the first time this has happened in the history of our nation."
Williams, a Buffalo-area native who decided to raise his family of four children in Central New York after his military career, said he stands apart from Katko and the two declared Democratic candidates – Eric Kingsonand Colleen Deacon – because of his experience taking on powerful special interests.
Kingson is a Syracuse University professor recognized as a national expert on Social Security. Deacon is the former district director in the Syracuse area for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
As a Navy prosecutor with the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps, Williams said he took on drug dealers and sexual predators. He was a lieutenant commander when he left the military in 1995 to pursue a private law career.
While practicing law in Syracuse, Williams said he helped union workers recover millions of dollars in pension funds lost to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. He declined to disclose which union he represented.
Williams said he views the Central New York economy as the top issue in the election, and would make it his priority to help bring new jobs to the region.
"I have a long track record of taking on very tough cases, hard cases, and winning," Williams said. "And I want to do that now for the folks in this district who need jobs."
Williams said he deplores the partisan politics that have led to gridlock in Congress. He said Katko's promises to work in a bipartisan manner have fallen short.
He cited as one example Katko's vote to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, despite a promise to the contrary during his 2014 campaign.
"That's political theater that does nothing for our country," Williams said of the Planned Parenthood vote. "I'm not going to break my word."
The 24th Congressional District covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and the western half of Oswego County.