2024 New York congressional battleground

In NY-24, an ugly rematch between Claudia Tenney and Mario Fratto

The incumbent rep is trying to fend off a further right businessman who has financed his own campaign.

Rep. Claudia Tenney, left, and challenger Mario Fratto, right

Rep. Claudia Tenney, left, and challenger Mario Fratto, right Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images; Mario Fratto for Congress/Campaign

Republican residents of New York’s recently redrawn 24th Congressional District will face a familiar choice in the June 25 primary. This is the second time attorney and granite business owner Mario Fratto is challenging incumbent Rep. Claudia Tenney. During the last primary in 2022, Fratto came away with 40% of the vote and Tenney won with 54%, besting Fratto by more than 4,400 votes. 

Whoever wins the primary is almost guaranteed to win the general election against Democrat candidate David Wagenhauser in the overwhelmingly red district. In 2020, voters in the district favored then President Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 20 points, according to data compiled by the Graduate Center at CUNY’s Redistricting & You. Tenney’s incumbency grants her a distinct advantage over her repeat challenger, but Fratto, who has mostly self-funded his campaign, isn’t being counted out.

“If Fratto is running to Tenney’s right and can get some of those very conservative folks in the primary to turn out, and if the more mainstream Republicans don’t turn out, it could potentially lead to an upset,” said Shawn Donahue, a political science professor at the University at Buffalo. “But I could be eating my words by the end of the night. … In most cycles, you don’t see that many incumbents lose primaries.” 

The conservative district, newly formed in 2022 and slightly tweaked for this cycle, snakes across more than a dozen counties along the shores of Lake Ontario, skirting around the urban area of Rochester. (Redistricting & You)

Tenney was first elected to Congress in 2016 representing the 22nd Congressional District in central New York and the Southern Tier. In 2018, she lost her seat to Democrat Anthony Brandisi in a close race. She took the seat back from him in 2020 in an even closer race with an incredibly slim lead of just over 100 votes. 

After New York redrew its congressional districts in 2022, Tenney decided to move to the more conservative 24th Congressional District and run there. This is when Fratto, a 24th Congressional District local, decided to throw his hat in the ring and challenge the incumbent. 

“On my mom’s side we’ve been in this district for five generations. My son is the sixth generation in the same city,” Fratto claimed. “Claudia Tenney is someone who hopped districts … to stay in Congress, and I think we need people who are in it for the right reasons who have skin in the game and know the communities.” 

Tenney and Fratto are both conservative MAGA Republican candidates, but each of them has tried creating contrast in an increasingly ugly rivalry. Tenney has characterized Fratto as being on the extreme right, accusing him of being antisemitic and having ties to infamous white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Asked for proof of his ties to Fuentes by The Buffalo News, Tenney’s campaign shared evidence that Fratto’s campaign consultant Matt Braynard attended Fuentes’ political conference in Florida in 2021. Far-right Rep. Paul Gosar, who has endorsed Fratto, also attended. Fratto vehemently denies Tenney’s allegations of antisemitism and ties to Fuentes.  

Fratto has touted his family history in the district while accusing Tenney of being a RINO (Republican in name only) and an establishment politician who does not represent her constituents and will do anything to remain in power. He’s also criticized her for failing to make good on a promise to introduce term limits in Congress. Tenney points to her voting record and numerous endorsements as arguments for her effectiveness as a member of Congress. 

“I am endorsed by President Trump, Chairman Jim Jordan, the NYS Conservative Party, NRA, New York State Rifle Association, Susan B. Anthony List and every Republican state legislator in NY-24 because they know I am an effective conservative fighting to secure the border and deliver results for Upstate New York,” Tenney said in a statement to City & State. 

Fratto has also criticized Tenney’s voting record as not conservative enough, pointing to her vote to block warrant requirements for the U.S. government to purchase data on American citizens from tech companies. In response, Tenney said she “will always stand with law enforcement and make sure they have the tools they need to track down foreign terrorists.” 

“As a challenger, Fratto has to focus on Tenney and her record because he doesn't have prior elected experience,” said Hanna Brant, an assistant political science professor and American politics expert at SUNY Geneseo. 

Tenney has not taken Fratto’s criticisms lying down and responded with attacks which verge on personal. Beyond her accusations of antisemitism and white supremacy, in a statement to City & State, the incumbent called her opponent a “charlatan” and a “fraud” who couldn’t make it in Hollywood as an actor. She also pointed to eyebrow-raising errors in his financial disclosures during both this primary campaign and his 2022 campaign, the Buffalo News reported. For example, Fratto initially claimed to have made less than $25,000 as head of his granite business in 2023, a figure he later amended to $38,000.

As of June 5 Tenney’s campaign reported raising $2 million, including $755,000 from PACs, with $552,000 on hand. Fratto reported $508,000, including $450,000 in loans he made to his own campaign, with $220,000 left on hand. 

There are no publicly available polls predicting the results of the 24th District’s primary, but Tenney’s incumbency and greater fundraising give her a significant edge over her opponent. In 2022 however, Fratto pulled 40% of the vote with just under $200,000 in spending, while that year Tenney spent about $1.6 million leading up to the primary.

Of course, the 24th Congressional District was also new to Tenney in 2022, and since then she has had the chance to build a stronger platform in the district and form more relationships in the district – though her relationship with Fratto has only gotten more caustic.

Corrections: This post has been updated to reflect assistant political science professor Hanna Brant teaches at SUNY Geneseo..

Additionally, due to an editing error, this story incorrectly described the election outcome in the 2020 presidential election in the 24th Congressional District. Trump won in the district by 20 points.

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