Hochul Taps Delgado to Be Next Lieutenant Governor, Throwing 19th District Congressional Race Wide Open


Rep. Antonio Delgado spoke at an event for The Olana Partnership last fall. (photo by Emily Sachar)

Rep. Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck, who is serving his second term in Congress (D-19), has been tapped to be the next lieutenant governor of New York State, throwing the 19th district Congressional race wide open.

Delgado’s appointment means that neither of the top two elected officials in New York State government will have been selected for their offices by the voters.

Delgado replaces Brian Benjamin, who resigned on April 12 following a campaign finance indictment.

In a statement, Gov. Kathy Hochul, who, with Delgado, will stand for election this November, said: “We share a belief in working together to get things done for New Yorkers, and Representative Delgado has an incredible record of doing just that in Congress.”

She continued, “With Antonio Delgado by my side serving as lieutenant governor, we will both make history — and make a difference.”

Delgado, 45, is Afro-Latino, the first person of color to represent upstate New York in Congress, and a member of both the Black and Hispanic Congressional Caucuses, according to a spokesperson for his office. As lieutenant governor, he will be the highest-ranking Latino in New York’s history. 

In the 19th district, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro of Red Hook was expected to challenge Delgado; no other Republican has filed to oppose him in the upcoming primary. The seat is crucial for Democrats in the mid-term elections, when Republicans expect to take control of the House. “I congratulate him on his selection but we were going to win this race, and by earning every vote, we will win this race,” Molinaro told The Daily Catch this morning. He said he is unsure if the news means he will be running unopposed. 

The current boundaries of the 19th Congressional district, which are apt to change after yet another set of redistricting maps is drawn statewide (map by The City University of New York Graduate Center).

Delgado will now face two other candidates, both Latina women, in the June 28 primaries. Former New York City Council member Diana Reyna and LGBTQ and immigrants rights activist Ana María Archila will also be on the ballot for lieutenant governor. 

In a statement this morning, Delgado suggested that his experience representing a rural Upstate farming district for nearly two full terms has prepared him to respond to the needs of all New Yorkers. “Upstate, downstate, doesn’t matter. We all want the same things: security, family, and opportunity,” Delgado said in the statement. He could not be reached for further comment at either his Washington D.C. or Kingston campaign offices. 

The news will immediately change the dynamics of the congressional race for the 19th district and could leave Democrats without a candidate to compete against Molinaro, who was expected to run without opposition in the Republican primary. The house seat is considered crucial for the Democrats in the midterm elections, where both parties widely expect Republicans to take control of the House.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a Democrat, may jump into the 19th Congressional district race to oppose Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (photo courtesy Pat Ryan).

This morning, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a Democrat. hinted that is considering jumping into the race to run against Molinaro. 

He (Delgado) will also leave very big shoes to fill, and I’m humbled and honored that members of this community are calling on me to run,” Ryan wrote in a tweet this morning. He continued, in a reference to the Supreme Court leak about the likely decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, “After last night’s devastating news, it’s clear that now more than ever we need champions in Congress who’ll protect fundamental rights and freedom and fight back against Washington extremism. So, stay tuned.” 

Ryan was the runner-up to Delgado in the Democratic congressional primary in 2018.  But even if he runs, it’s unclear how Ryan expects to get his name on the ballot. The deadline to file petitions to be on the ballot in New York was April 7. State Senate and congressional primaries will be held Aug. 23. That said, the primary calendar has been thrown into disarray following a decision by the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, to throw out the new redistricting maps approved by state Democrats. (read our coverage) In an effort to shore up more Democratic voters for Delgado, the new redistricting lines would have placed the left-leaning cities of Binghamton and Utica into the 19th district. The new district maps that must be drawn anew likely won’t be as favorable to Democrats. 

News of Delgado’s departure from Congress is already being celebrated by several prominent New York Republicans, who claim the vacated House seat will now be an easy pick-up for Molinaro. 

“As he jumps ship from Nancy’s doomed Titanic to Kathy’s criminal cesspool in Albany, we thank Antonio Delgado for his incredible help ensuring Republicans are one huge step closer to winning back the House,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21) said in a prepared statement. Stefanik is the No. 3 House Republican and her district borders NY-19 to the north.  

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who lives in Red Hook, paid a visit to Hardscrabble Day last Sept. 18 (photo by Joel Gordin).

Democrats, meanwhile, will be losing a strong congressional candidate in Delgado. In 2020, he ran as one of the party’s toughest incumbents in a swing district made up of mostly white rural voters. The 19th district currently weaves around Albany to include all of Greene and Columbia counties and stretches south to Pawling in Dutchess County and West to New Berlin in Chenango County. Delgado won 54.5 percent of the vote to Republican Kyle Van De Water’s 42.9 percent in 2020, according to Ballotpedia. He was expected, though, to face stiff competition from Molinaro in November. 

Millions of dollars had already poured into the race, as voters geared up for a Delgado-Molinaro match-up. According to the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, Delgado has raked in $5.8 million for his bid to Molinaro’s $730,000. Last month, Delgado began running television ads, as both candidates hit the campaign trail, barnstorming the rural district, holding town halls and taking selfies with constituents on college campuses, farms, and baseball stadiums. 

Delgado enters Albany as a politically moderate Democrat who has prioritized bipartisanship. He served on the agriculture, transportation, and small business committees, and broke with the party’s left-leaning flank led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to cast votes in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act and the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2019. Nearly 90 percent of the legislation he co-sponsored was supported by members of both parties. 

On the campaign trail, Delgado conspicuously avoided the national spotlight and rarely granted interviews to the press. Instead, he emphasized bread-and-butter local issues such as expanding rural broadband internet access, winning federal grants and subsidies for small upstate farmers, and protecting the Affordable Care Act from being repealed. He has held over 65 town halls during his two terms in office. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul introduced Rep. Antonio Delgado at a 2 p.m. press conference today (photo from Hochul’s live-stream Twitter account).

Delgado will be giving up his House seat in exchange for the largely ceremonial role of lieutenant governor. Delgado would only become governor in the event Hochul resigns, is impeached, is disabled, or dies. But the position can serve as a career springboard. In New York’s history, nine lieutenant governors have ascended to the governorship. The most recent example is Hochul herself, who took over after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned last August amid a wave of sexual misconduct allegations.  Prior to that, Lt. Gov. David Paterson succeeded Eliot Spitzer after a prostitution scandal forced Spitzer to resign in 2008.

One response to “Hochul Taps Delgado to Be Next Lieutenant Governor, Throwing 19th District Congressional Race Wide Open”

  1. Lauren Gordon says:

    Mr Delgado will succeed as Lt. Governor and will continue his amazing career for years to come representing us and NY State.
    Mr Molinaro is also a good man and I admire his extensive experience in the Hudson Valley. However, if he is our next Representative in Congress it will feel like betrayal if he votes as a Republican immoral clone instead of being his own man and fighting for NY and New Yorkers.

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