WASHINGTON, D.C. – Colleen Deacon, who ran U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's district office in Syracuse, plans to mount a Democratic challenge to U.S. Rep. John Katko in next year's congressional election.
Deacon, 38, of Syracuse, filed paperwork Thursday with the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C., formally declaring her candidacy.
She is the second Democrat to seek the party's nomination for the 24th Congressional District seat, joining Syracuse University professor Eric Kingson, who launched his campaign this summer.
Deacon served as Central New York regional director for Gillibrand, D-N.Y., over the past six years, resigning in the past month to run for Congress. She was paid $58,000 in the last fiscal year.
Before working for Gillibrand, Deacon spent six years working for the city of Syracuse, where she served as press secretary to former mayor Matt Driscoll.
Deacon was unavailable for comment Thursday, but her campaign released a statement about her decision to challenge Katko, R-Camillus.
"I understand the challenges and opportunities facing my neighbors here in Central New York because I've lived them myself," Deacon said. "I have seen – up close and personal – how the issues that get talked about in Washington, D.C., affect real people's lives."
Deacon, a single mother, worked as a waitress when she became pregnant with her son. Since the job offered no health insurance or maternity leave, she turned to Medicaid, food stamps and the WIC program for help.
Deacon said the experience taught her lessons that she would bring to Congress as a representative of families, seniors, veterans and small businesses.
She now enters a likely primary for a seat that Democrats have targeted as one of their top pickup opportunities in the House next year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which lists the 24th District seat among its top 10 priorities, usually does not endorse a candidate until after the primary process.
A DCCC spokeswoman in Washington said Thursday the party had several meetings with Deacon, in addition to other potential candidates who may decide to launch campaigns before the end of the year.
Katko, a first-term House member, will try to become the first Republican to hold the Syracuse-area congressional seat in a presidential election year since former Rep. James Walsh, R-Onondaga, was re-elected in 2004.
Katko defeated former Rep. Dan Maffei, D-Syracuse, in the 2014 election. The Syracuse-area congressional seat has changed parties in the past four elections, making it the top swing district in the nation.
The 24th District covers all of Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne counties, and the western half of Oswego County including the cities of Fulton and Oswego.