Comparing John Katko (NY-24) & Claudia Tenney (NY-22): Trump Endorsement By Luke Perry
John Katko and Claudia Tenney are both GOP House incumbents from neighboring districts in central New York, highly contested political ground this midterm. Their approaches to the president and policy differ as they pursue reelection. Last week illuminated another important difference.
Mark Weiner of Syracuse.com reported that John Katko (NY-24) will not seek the endorsement of Donald Trump or members of his administration in pursuing reelection this fall.
“I'm not seeking anyone's endorsement at that level,” stated Katko. “I don't really care if they endorse me or not. I only care that my constituents endorse me with their vote.”
In contrast, Claudia Tenney (NY-22) was recently endorsed by President Trump at a fundraiser in Utica. Tenney has described the Trump presidency as the “the most successful presidency in modern history.”
Tenney has closely aligned herself to Trump in both style and substance. This is partly strategic as Tenney seeks to expand her base by incorporating more Trump supporters. The president outperformed Tenney by nine points in NY-22 last election.
For Katko, President Trump’s endorsement is “not anywhere near as important as getting the endorsement of my constituents.” "I am an independent person, I am a bipartisan person,” Katko explained, “and I want to do what's right for my constituents. I don't think endorsements matter all that much."
Katko has supported 90 percent of Trump’s policies, per Five-Thirty Eight, while demonstrating selective willingness to criticize the president and his more conservative colleagues in the House. Immigration is a prominent example. Katko contends that a group of 20 Republicans, which he belonged to, “came up with what I thought was a great compromise,” but “the far right of our party tanked it.”
Katko does not think the House Freedom Caucus was forthright in their negotiations. "I think the entire time, they didn't want this to happen, Katko explained, “they acted like they bargained in good faith, and I think they went around behind our back and poisoned the well with the president." “I’m really upset about this still,” Katko said.
Katko also criticized the president for his handling of the bill. Trump tweeted that “Republicans in Congress should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators/Congressmen and women in November.” The president then created confusion leading up to the vote, making it unclear what version of competing immigration bills he supported.
Democratic challenger Dana Balter criticized Katko’s “so-called ‘compromise’ immigration bill” for failing to attract Democratic voters and doing “nothing to reunite families ripped apart at the border.”
Tenney has supported 96 percent of Trump’s policies, per Five-Thirty Eight, while her campaign this summer has lauded The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “I will continue to fight for tax cuts that are unleashing the American Dream in NY-22,” Tenney recently tweeted.
Tenney claims small businesses are “either giving wages or bonuses, or both, adding to 401ks, reinvesting in property” as a result of the tax cut. She has conducted several related round tables in the district, like the one earlier this month with Chamber of Commerce members in Binghamton, where people echo this sentiment.
Tenney has also arranged for Trump administration members to visit the district, including Ivanka Trump, advisor to the president, Linda MacMahon, administrator of the Small Business Administration, and Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture. Tenney believes these events are valuable opportunities for national officials to speak with constituent groups, like business owners and dairy farmers.
The Tax Foundation calculated the amount of tax cuts per income bracket and Congressional district. Most individuals in NY-22 received around a 2.3 percent tax cut, except for people making more than $200,000, whose cut was over twice as much. This has been a primary criticism from Democratic challenger Anthony Brindisi.
Immigration and Tax Cuts are two signature issues of the Trump presidency thus far. Katko is talking about the failures of one, while Tenney emphasizes the perceived benefits of the other. These approaches reflect differences in their perceptions of the Trump presidency two months ahead of the midterm.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.
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