Republican Brandon Williams will represent Central New York in the House of Representatives after defeating Democrat Francis Conole in the race for New York's 22nd Congressional District, the Associated Press projected late Monday, concluding one of the most closely watched competitive contests in the state and nation.
The software company founder and U.S. Navy veteran will succeed Republican Rep. John Katko in Congress, keeping the seat in Republican hands and once again dashing Democrats’ hopes of flipping the Syracuse-based district to their column.
At last count, Williams led Conole 51% to 49% with more than 97% of the estimated vote counted. Williams declared victory late on election night, but Conole waited for more votes to be counted.
"I’d like to offer a special thanks to all the election officials who have worked countless hours to ensure every vote is counted. As the dust from Election Day settles, we are not merely Republicans and Democrats – we are united as Central New Yorkers," said Williams in a statement Tuesday morning. "I look forward to representing each of our district’s constituents regardless of your party. Together we can restore the economy, attract jobs, and empower communities to reduce crime. I would also like to recognize Francis Conole for running a strong, impassioned race. While we offered voters a contrast and shared many disagreements on the campaign trail, we both love CNY and we both love our country. I commend him for his military service and providing voters with a choice on Election Day by stepping up to run for office.”
Conole conceded the race Wednesday evening, saying "from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank my family, friends, volunteers, committee members, members of Indivisible, and everyone who supported our campaign for a better future in #NY22."
The new 22nd District includes all of Onondaga, Madison and Oneida counties, as well as a sliver of Oswego County.
With no incumbent, new district boundaries and evenly split between registered Democrats and Republicans, the 22nd District had been viewed as an electoral battleground. The close race results helped cement this political reality. A Spectrum News1/Siena College poll from early October had Williams leading slightly and a poll from last week showed Conole narrowly ahead.
Had the district existed in 2020, Joe Biden would’ve won it by 7.4 points.
Williams was born in Texas and moved to Central New York in 2010.
A political newcomer, Williams was considered by many to be the underdog in the Republican primary race over the summer against Steven Wells. Outspent and not backed by the local Republican establishment, Williams ended up defeating Wells by about 15 points.
Williams' victory in the purpleish district in the general election is the final chapter of the GOP's success in New York House races this election despite fewer than expected wins in the nation at large. While keeping the 22nd District, Republicans were also able to flip four House seats across the state — the 19th and 17th districts in the Southern Tier and Hudson Valley regions and the 3rd and 4th districts located on Long Island.
The small but monumental gains in New York could be decisive in the end. The Associated Press projected Wednesday evening, shortly before Conole's concession, that Republicans have won control of the House of Representatives, which they lost in 2018, though it will likely be by a very small majority.
Williams will be sworn in as a freshman member of the 118th Congress on Jan. 3, 2023.