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Democrat seeks ‘lake district’ seat in congress

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 5:47 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A Democrat who now lives in the Syracuse area is seeking to represent Watertown and much of Fort Drum in congress.

Steven Holden has declared for New York’s newly reshaped 24-th congressional district, which stretches from western New York up through Jefferson County.

Under a redrawing of political boundaries approved by the state legislature earlier this year, Jefferson County was split into two pieces, with current congresswoman Elise Stefanik getting part of Fort Drum and some of the northern part of the county, and the 24th getting the rest.

Holden, an Army veteran with two tours each of Afghanistan and Iraq, will face either congressman Chris Jacobs or Geneva NY businessman Mario Fratto, the two Republicans seeking the seat.

Holden was drafted by his fellow Democrats to run in the 24th; he was originally set to run in another district when he was approached about running in the 24th.

Holden says the newly designed district, which includes 14 counties that hug the Lake Ontario shoreline - hence the nickname ‘lake district’ - fits him well.

“I have strong rural roots. I can connect with rural voters. I grew up on a dairy farm in Oklahoma,” he said Wednesday.

Holden spent 20 years in the military, working as a finance officer. He served under H.R. McMaster, who was former President Trump’s National Security Advisor; James Mattis, former President Trump’s Secretary of Defense; David Patraeus, retired general and former head of the CIA.

Holden describes himself as a ‘practical’ or ‘pragmatic’ progressive. He supports ‘Medicare for all’ health insurance, student loan forgiveness and the legalization of marijuana at the federal level.

He says he’s a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and would favor ‘common sense’ regulation of firearms.

He says he supports police reform - one of Holden’s degrees is in criminal justice - but not ‘defunding the police.’

Holden said one thing which distinguishes him from other progressives is his practicality, his emphasis on making programs work, and paying for them.

“I come from a progressive background, but implementation is really what I’m talking about,” he said.

Holden said the military needs to be reformed.

“I think we need to put more into soldier pay and benefits, and take it out of the hands of defense contractors.”

Holden faces a very difficult race: the 24th, as currently configured, has 75,000 more Republican voters than Democrats.

He’s not bothered.

“I grew up in Oklahoma and I’ve seen candidates like myself win. I know how to talk to people. 16.16 and we think that’s gonna have a crossover appeal.”

Democrats drafted Holden, who was originally running for another seat. In order to insure they could run someone in the 24th, Democrats had a lawyer sign on as a “placeholder” candidate for the purpose of circulating nominating petitions.

Once Holden was talked into running, the lawyer bowed out and the petitions essentially became Holden’s.

Holden and his wife now live in Camillus, a suburb of Syracuse. They’re contemplating a move to Central Square in Oswego County, which Holden said is partly in the 24th. However, a map of the area suggests Central Square is entirely in NY-21, not 24. In any event, there’s no requirement a member of congress live in his or her district.

(A note from Scott Atkinson - I made a mistake last Friday night in reporting on who’s running for congress. I left Holden out, and said the Jacobs - Fratto primary would settle who the next congressman will be. Wrong. The winner of the primary goes on to face Holden in November. My apologies for the mistake, and the confusion it caused.)

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