ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado will serve as New York’s next lieutenant governor, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday.
Delgado, a Democrat, will take on the largely ceremonial role previously formerly held by Brian Benjamin, who resigned following his arrest for federal corruption charges, which he has denied.
The Democratic governor touted Delgado’s upstate electoral wins and his work on bills addressing veterans, small businesses and student loan debt, and said his electoral record will help Democrats win statewide.
“The fact is he could have done anything, and he chose public service,” Hochul said Tuesday at a Capitol press conference alongside Delgado, a Rhodes Scholar who briefly pursued a rap career after earning a Harvard law degree. He had campaigned on universal access to Medicare, creating good jobs and eliminating tax loopholes for the rich.
Delgado identifies as Afro-Latino and was first elected in 2018 to represent the Hudson Valley and the Catskills as the first person of color representing upstate New York in Congress.
He told reporters Tuesday he decided to leave Congress to serve as lieutenant governor for the opportunity to meet with New Yorkers statewide and see if governmental policies are working on the ground.
“Being home in New York amongst the people I represent is where I have undoubtedly felt more fulfilled and energized,” Delgado said.
Delgado had won his swing district and ousted Republican incumbent Jon Faso, but Democrats had hoped to ensure Delgado’s win this year by drawing up new political district maps that a court later struck down as unconstitutionally gerrymandered. An upstate judge and a researcher are working on new maps that are expected to give Democrats less of an edge than they hoped.
Delgado, a former litigator for a New York City international law firm, won by five percentage points against Faso. GOP ads at the time called him a “big-city liberal” and attacked Delgado’s song lyrics that were critical of capitalism and police.
“Antonio Delgado was smart and got a jump on the job market before he and the rest of his House Democrat colleagues lose this fall,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Samantha Bullock said.
Delgado said Tuesday he wants to use his role to restore trust in New York government.
“Democracy doesn’t happen on its own. The people have to hold leaders accountable and leaders have to want to be accountable,” he said.
Hochul said he’ll take office “sometime this month.” New York would have 10 days once his office is vacant to announce a special election to be held 70 to 80 days later.
A Buffalo native, Hochul vowed to select a lieutenant governor from New York City and launch a diverse administration last August. She has said her vetting process didn’t raise any red flags from Benjamin. Hochul said Tuesday she had a “large staff” to vet candidates this time.
Benjamin, of Harlem, faces charges including bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsification of records. He has pleaded not guilty. Hochul said Tuesday she had a “large staff” to vet candidates this time.
Hochul on Monday signed a law that will allow Benjamin’s name to be removed from the ballot in the state’s June 28 Democratic primary and replaced with Delgado’s.
“We are going to continue to work very hard to ensure a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Hochul said.
In this year’s midterms, Democrats face the threat of losing their 221-209 majority in Congress.
Democrats hold a strong 2:1 advantage over Republicans in New York when it comes to voter registration. About half of the state’s 13 million voters are Democrats, while Republicans have roughly 2.8 million voters and the rest are largely unaffiliated.
Republicans hold eight of New York’s 27 seats in Congress. New York is set to lose a seat following the 2020 Census.
The nixed congressional map passed by the Democrat-led Legislature would have given Republicans an advantage in four out of 26 districts.
Delgado’s district was a point of contention among commissioners: Republicans proposed a district with 54% Trump voters, while Democratic commissioners pitched giving Biden voters a slight edge.
The Legislature’s final maps were more friendly toward Democrats. Delgado’s Hudson Valley district would have swooped north to include the Democratic-voting city of Utica, while avoiding Republican communities. Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney had vowed to run against Delgado.
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