Juanita Perez Williams confirms exclusively to NewsChannel 9 that she’s running for congress.
It’s the first word from Perez Williams since her candidacy was leaked earlier this week by the Onondaga County Democratic Committee Chair.
It’s a last-minute change of heart for the Democrat who, in January, initially decided against running.
Perez Williams says she heard from a lot of voters, questioning why she wasn’t in the race and encouraging her to run.
Perez Williams, who had been laying low since losing the election for Mayor of Syracuse, says:
“I had been watching from the sidelines and I couldn’t just watch anymore. You can’t complain about this. If you want change for the region, for the country, you have to have courage and jump in.”
Not all Democrats are thrilled with the unexpected candidate. Party leaders in the four counties that make up the 24th Congressional District (Onondaga, Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne) each held designation processes and all selected Dana Balter as their candidate.
Perez Williams says:
“I think very highly of Dana and I’ve been watching her and supporting her throughout this process. Nevertheless, I feel as though we need options for the people of Central New York. We need to engage them. I’m not seeing that. We can beat John Katko.”
When asked if the seat, which historically flips back and forth between parties, can be flipped again, the Democrat said:
“With the right candidate, we can flip the seat by bringing national attention to it. That was my concern that we don’t see that happening. We were teed up to not have a primary at all, yet you don’t see any endorsements, you didn’t see any national attention and people were simply forgetting. You get the right candidate, you bring the national attention, you bring the funding and bring the ability to flip the seat.”
Primary elections for federal office will be held June 26th. To get on the ballot, Perez Williams needs to get 1250 petition signatures before next week’s deadline.
All four committees are standing by Balter as their candidate, despite Perez Williams’ candidacy.
In a joint statement, the committee chairs blame inference from national party leaders:
“The recent DCCC actions in NY24 are unfortunately just the latest example of not taking into account the work happening at the grassroots this year. From people engaged for the very first time this year, to party and elected officials we stand united behind our designated nominee Dana Balter and against the DC meddling that has hampered far too many races thus far.”
Perez Williams says the run was her choice and that ultimately, the focus is on bringing national attention to the race and beating incumbent Congressman John Katko.
Of the two-term Republican, Perez Williams says:
“What I am focusing on is that he has let us down. We all know what is impacting Central New York right now and we have waited for him to stand up for us and I am disappointed in that. He’s been to Washington. We don’t hear him standing up against Trump. We don’t hear him standing up against Paul Ryan.”
A campaign spokesperson for John Katko passed on the opportunity to comment.
Dana Balter has also not responded to requests for comment.