Balter says attack ads are ‘sexist and racist,’ Katko campaign calls complaints ‘offensive’

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Jill Ferguson of Syracuse says she’s had to comfort her nine-year-old son who had a hard time falling asleep after seeing the political commercials that air between baseball games.

Ferguson said, “It caught my family completely off guard when we saw it for the first time. I was frankly shocked that a campaign ad that dark would air during entertainment programming when surely many families like mine watch together.”

Ferguson and two other women joined Democrat Dana Balter at an event on Wednesday to call out the attack ads put out by Congressman John Katko’s campaign as “sexist and racist.”

Balter said, “I’m not here today because he’s attacking me. I knew when I stepped into this race that was coming. I’m ready for it. I’m a big girl. I can take it. I am here today because of the other stories these women told you.”

As a guest speaker, Ferguson was joined by a high schooler from Auburn. The senior, who isn’t old enough to vote, said: “I have to ask the congressman: ‘Why are you so intimated by a powerful woman who wants to speak out about the issues?’ I think your campaigns say a lot more about your morals than they do about Dana Balter’s.”

The third woman to share her concerns describes herself as a proud Black mother. Gwen Webber-McLeod said, “These ads leave me wondering if he truly cares about Black families the way he says he does. His words and actions don’t match.”

“On behalf of every child that lives in this district, I am calling on you to take your sexist and racists ads off the air,” Balter says to her opponent Katko.

When asked for specific examples, Balter points to ads that she says uses: “The most unflattering photos you can find, doctored, changed colors, using pictures of women with their mouth open, like they’re screaming at you, making them look like they’re angry at you.”

Another example Balter shares is the Katko ad attacking her position on bail reform that implies a person wearing a hooded sweatshirt is a criminal. Balter calls it “racist.”

Katko didn’t have time for an interview with NewsChannel 9 on Wednesday, according to his campaign.

His campaign’s political director, Benedicte Doran, emailed the following statement:

“There are no people of color in our bail reform ad, and to assume the spot portrays a Black man is offensive. Our ads show Dana Balter for who she is: a professional candidate and protester. They focus on her far-left support of bail reform and a costly government takeover of healthcare. Dana Balter lies in her ads, and is lying now to try and distract from her extreme and costly positions, which is insulting to Central New York voters.”

Katko’s campaign fires back at Balter’s ads, taking issue with Katko’s pictures being “superimposed” on pictures of President Donald Trump.

Dana Balter Ad:

John Katko Ad:

When asked about the concern, Balter says, “We do not photoshop the congressman into a picture. They are two different pictures from two different moments and they are put side by side because the congressman endorses Donald Trump.”

At a debate hosted by Syracuse.com on Monday, Katko said he started with positive campaign ads but then turned negative only after his opponent went negative.

Balter admits her commercials attack Katko’s policies and performance, but doesn’t include personal attacks. She doesn’t want voters to have a false equivalency between negative ads that attack policy and negative ads that attack personality.


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For more local news, follow Andrew Donovan on Twitter @AndrewDonovan.

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