New York-24: John Katko (R)

Provided by campaign
National Journal
Nov. 4, 2014, 5:50 p.m.

Born: Nov. 9, 1962

Fam­ily: Mar­ried, Robin Katko; three chil­dren

Re­li­gion: Cath­ol­ic

Edu­ca­tion: Niagara Uni­versity, B.A., 1984; Syra­cuse Uni­versity Col­lege of Law, J.D., 1988

Ca­reer: Justice De­part­ment at­tor­ney, 1995-2014; Se­cur­it­ies and Ex­change Com­mis­sion at­tor­ney, 1991-95

Elec­ted Of­fice: None

Re­pub­lic­an John Katko, a former fed­er­al pro­sec­utor, made a late surge in the polls and de­feated Demo­crat­ic Rep. Dan Maf­fei. Katko suc­cess­fully lever­aged his law-and-or­der cre­den­tials and hammered home the GOP’s long­time char­ac­ter­iz­a­tion of Maf­fei as a Wash­ing­ton in­sider — a tac­tic that worked well this time against the former con­gres­sion­al staffer whose sup­port among voters had nev­er been a sure thing.

Katko grew up in Onond­aga County, then at­ten­ded Niagara Uni­versity and Syra­cuse Uni­versity’s law school. He worked for a D.C. law firm be­fore tak­ing a po­s­i­tion at the Se­cur­it­ies and Ex­change Com­mis­sion. In two dec­ades at the Justice De­part­ment, he served as a spe­cial as­sist­ant U.S. at­tor­ney in Vir­gin­ia’s East­ern Dis­trict and worked for the crim­in­al di­vi­sion. He re­turned home in 1988 and worked a vari­ety of drug-en­force­ment-re­lated jobs with the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice for the North­ern Dis­trict of New York.

Katko re­tired from the Justice De­part­ment in Janu­ary to chal­lenge Maf­fei, a former con­gress­man who briefly lost his seat in the 2010 GOP wave and earned it back in 2012 — al­beit with just 49 per­cent of the vote (Pres­id­ent Obama re­ceived 57 per­cent in the dis­trict). Katko had the GOP primary field to him­self after Ian Hunter, a con­ser­vat­ive from Syra­cuse, ab­ruptly an­nounced in April that he was abandon­ing his run.

Like Maf­fei’s pre­vi­ous Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ents, Katko tried to de­pict the con­gress­man as an out-of-touch Belt­way in­sider. Re­pub­lic­ans poin­ted to Maf­fei’s pur­chase of a $700,000 house in the Wash­ing­ton area. And Katko drew sub­stan­tial me­dia at­ten­tion when he noted that Maf­fei and his wife had their baby in a D.C. hos­pit­al, a ques­tion that the con­gress­man said was “out of bounds.” Katko re­spon­ded at a de­bate that Maf­fei put the name of the hos­pit­al in a news re­lease: “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

As in past cam­paigns, Maf­fei em­phas­ized his mod­er­ate stripes and nonideo­lo­gic­al prag­mat­ism. He also cri­ti­cized Obama’s hand­ling of the Ebola situ­ation in the United States and de­clared his un­hap­pi­ness with the ad­min­is­tra­tion over its hand­ling of the con­flict in Syr­ia.

Maf­fei and Demo­crats tried to poke holes in Katko’s re­cord as a pro­sec­utor, cri­ti­ciz­ing him for his hand­ling of a loc­al may­or’s sex-of­fend­er case as well as for an in­cid­ent in­volving a gun that was stolen from Katko in 2000 and used in a rob­bery that left two people dead. Katko com­plained that such cam­paign at­tacks “des­troyed my char­ac­ter.” But he over­took his op­pon­ent in polls in the race’s fi­nal week and snared the en­dorse­ment of loc­al di­git­al pa­per Syra­cuse.com, which said Maf­fei’s per­form­ance in of­fice has been “steady but un­in­spir­ing…. It’s time to give someone else a chance.”

Chuck McCutcheon contributed to this article.
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