TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Congressional Candidate for New York’s 22nd District (previously NY-24) Francis Conole is a lifelong resident of Syracuse, New York. With both his parents and grandparents both working hard toward the American dream in Central New York, Conole, a Democrat, said his values have centered around service and hard work.

After his military career that included multiple deployments, working on Barack Obama’s presidential Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, and as a diplomatic defense policy director role at the Pentagon, Conole decided to return home.

“I’ve been very engaged in our Democratic party,” he said, mentioning his previously unsuccessful run for Congress in 2020. Conole said he was drawn to politics because of the challenges the country faces including crises with democracy and the middle class. “I’ve spent my life taking an oath to the Constitution and we now have voting rights being taken away in states across the country.”

Professionally, Conole cites his time on Obama’s Armed Forces Inaugural Committee as a pivotal part of his career, and despite being in uniform and acting as such, Conole said he was passionately engaged in Obama’s election. “I led a team of military from all backgrounds, races, demographics. We were really focused on Inauguration Day, and being a part of that day and standing there seeing us elect our first African-American president was an extremely proud moment for me.”

As a leader, Conole views himself as someone who listens to both his constituents and his team, even when not everyone is in agreement. “I think that is a key component of leadership — taking care of your people is the most important thing you can do as a leader, because your people are central to the mission.”

Healthcare and women’s health

Supporting Medicare and social security protections, Conole wants to keep the “promise we’ve made to our parents and grandparents, as well as future generations to ensure they get the healthcare they need after a lifetime of work.” To do this, Conole proposes reforms to social security and Medicare programs that disallow cuts and privatization.

Women’s health is another of Conole’s top priorities, he said. Beginning with codifying Roe v. Wade “to ensure a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions,” Conole believes that protecting funding for health care clinics like Planned Parenthood is crucial.

“I’ll fight back against GOP attempts to restrict a woman’s right to choose and make her own health decisions,” he said.

Additionally, Conole wants to pass and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which creates and supports comprehensive, cost-effective responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence website.

Conole said he is also startled by the opioid crisis’ overwhelming impact. In 2020 in Onondaga County, 134 people died from opioid overdoses and 63 from heroin, which was about a 30% increase from 2019.

Conole wants to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for creating the circumstances in which people suffer from their drugs. He proposes increased funding for treatment, prevention and recovery centers, increased research for overdose-reversing drugs and more research on how to best treat pain and addiction.

Rebuilding from COVID-19

Moving forward, Conole said that lowering costs for working families, continuing the Child Tax Credit and addressing supply chain problems are some of his issues of importance, along with fixing the democracy Conole describes as “borderline broken.”

“I think we have an opportunity to train and educate our workforce,” he said, adding that he believes a close look at how COVID unfolded will be the best way to prepare for the next crisis, whether that means having personal protective equipment on hand or having a more streamlined vaccine research, manufacturing and approval process in place.

Another deficit highlighted by the pandemic is the need to stop outsourcing so much as a country, Conole said, a frequently cited flaw exposed by the widespread shutdowns.

“I think, if anything, this past year has taught us is that we need to start building things at home again,” he said.

Supporting rural New York

Another priority is reinvesting in rural areas of Central New York. Conole proposes to modernize physical infrastructures like roads, bridges and transportation networks while expanding rural broadband high speed internet access.

Boosting housing investments in rural communities, protecting agriculture investments from budget cuts and expanding crop insurance programs are other proposals on Conole’s agenda.

Other topics

After serving in the military and being taught how to handle armed assailants, Conole wants to mitigate scenarios in which children have to deal with dangerous assailants. “It is heartbreaking and enraging to think that children all over the country live in a world where they must prepare and train for an armed assault situation similar to our soldiers at Fort Jackson,” he said. “They need and demand our action.”

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...