Rep. Antonio Delgado, a Schenectady native, named New York lieutenant governor (with photos)

Antonio Delgado with Gov. Kathy Hochul May. 3 in Albany
Antonio Delgado with Gov. Kathy Hochul May. 3 in Albany

ALBANY — Rep. Antonio Delgado, a native of Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood and a former standout on the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons basketball team, on Tuesday was appointed the state’s next lieutenant governor by Gov. Kathy Hochul, a move that could have national implications as Democrats seek to bolster their slim margins in Congress during this year’s midterm elections. 

Hochul said she decided to appoint Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, following a rigorous vetting process, adding that the two-term congressman has an impressive resume and is a New Yorker through and through who shares her values and commitment to public service.     

“We share the common belief that the only reason we should be in these jobs and pursue public service is to get things done. Nothing is more important,” Hochul said during a press event at the state’s Capitol.  

Delgado’s appointment comes a day after Hochul signed legislation removing the state’s former lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin from the ballot after the Harlem Democrat resigned last month following his arrest on bribery charges.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”77″ display=”basic_imagebrowser”]First elected to represent the sprawling 19th Congressional District in 2018, Delgado, a Rhodes Scholar and first person of color elected to represent upstate New York, helped usher in a so-called Blue Wave when he defeated former Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, helping Democrats gain an important seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The district covers parts of Rensselaer and Montgomery counties, as well as swaths of the Southern Tier and Mid-Hudson Valley. 

Delgado said he enjoyed serving the people of the district, particularly meeting with residents to discuss issues and share ideas on how to improve communities, and wanted to continue to do the same work for the benefit of all New Yorkers while helping to facilitate the healing process associated with the pandemic.  

“It’s with these experiences in mind that I can’t help, I simply cannot help but welcome with open arms the opportunity to connect with communities all across this amazing state,” he said. “After two years of COVID and intense isolation from others, we need to reconnect and strengthen our collective bonds as New Yorkers.”

It’s unclear when Delgado is expected to resign from Congress and if a special election will be called to fill the seat once he steps down. Hochul said a swearing-in ceremony will likely take place sometime in the next month. 

Delgado’s appointment to lieutenant governor, a mostly ceremonial position, takes him out of the running for a third term to the House in what many believe will be a tight race at a time when Democrats are seeking to bolster their ranks in Congress during November’s elections.

But the race for the state’s 19th Congressional District remains unclear after the state’s Court of Appeals rejected newly drawn political maps that it determined were gerrymandered by Democrats. New maps are expected to be redrawn in the coming weeks and the primaries for Congressional and state Senate races have been pushed back until August, though the state is appealing the decision. 

Steven Greenberg, a pollster with Siena College Research Institute, said it’s unclear how Delgado’s appointment to lieutenant governor will impact the race until the lines are redrawn and it’s clear who is running. Still, he said it will be harder for Democrats to hold onto the seat without Delgado on the ballot. 

“There’s no question that whatever this district looks like, it is going to be harder for Democrats to hold the seat without Delgado than it would have been with Delgado,” he said. “Beyond that, it’s really too early to know because we don’t know what the district will look like and we don’t know who the candidates may be.”

Republican Marcus Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive and former gubernatorial candidate, was planning to run against Delgado under the rejected maps. 

Delgado’s appointment also comes a day after Politico reported that the U.S. Supreme Court was planning to gut abortion rights in a decision expected to be handed down in the coming weeks. The news has drawn fierce criticism from Democratic lawmakers and calls from party leaders to codify abortion access into federal law.

But to do so, Democrats must hold onto their majority in the House and increase their ranks in the Senate, which is currently divided 50-50. 

Asked how she weighed national interests with those of the state when selecting Delgado to serve in her administration, Hochul said she is committed to ensuring Democrats hold onto their majorities, but said it is important to have a strong state government, pointing to recent legislation introduced in states throughout the country seeking to eliminate abortion access and targeting the rights of the LGBTQ community. 

“For a long time the focus has been on Washington, and we’re going to continue to work to make sure there’s a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate because those are the individuals who deliver for us … but we have to have the best team here as well,” she said. 

Delgado said he views his decision as a way to continue to serve not only the people of the 19th Congressional District, but all New Yorkers. 

“The ability to continue to be with my constituents in that capacity and beyond is what fundamentally pushed me into this space,” he said. 

Delgado was born and raised in Schenectady, where his parents worked for General Electric. He attended Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons Catholic School and was a standout star on the school’s basketball team and attended church at Macedonia Baptist in Albany. 

In 2018, he told The Daily Gazette that basketball was his first love. That passion led him to a few seasons of collegiate play and a semi-pro league in Puerto Rico. He was inducted into the Upstate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.  

After graduating from high school, he attended Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, where he was awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. After returning form Oxford University, he attended Harvard Law School, where he met his wife, Lacey Schwartz. The couple have two children, twin boys Maxwell and Coltrane. 

Delgado began practicing law in New York City before eventually settling in Rhinebeck.

On Tuesday, he said his connections to different parts of the state have helped shape his views and that he is committed to bringing back jobs lost over the years, including positions at GE and IBM. 

“We’ve experienced and have had meaningful experiences all up and down the state, but certainly having represented upstate the last few years and being in a position to try my best to understand how to speak to those issues that we’ve talked about, the GEs and the IBMs, and finding new places to have jobs,” he said.  

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said he was excited that Delgado was appointed to lieutenant governor, noting his Schenectady roots and his understanding of issues facing upstate communities. 

“We’re always glad to have Schenectady ties,” he said. “He’s going to add some stability to the ticket and I look forward to working with him.”

Elsewhere, the ascension of the sitting representative for the western half of Montgomery County to the second highest leadership role in the state comes with benefits and drawbacks, according to Terry Bieniek, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party and Democratic commissioner for the county Board of Elections.

“I’m viewing it more as a home county person in as lieutenant governor,” Bieniek said. “I’m very excited, because I feel like I know him and I think he’ll bring a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of good to the position.”

Still, Bieniek acknowledged Delgado’s departure could hurt Democrats’ chances of holding control in the 19th Congressional District in November. Delgado won reelection by roughly 40,000 votes in a tough race against Republican Kyle Van De Water in 2020.

Bieniek is hopeful the state Democratic Party will be able to field a competitive candidate to run in Delgado’s place, even if it’s unclear for which district.

“We’re going to be scrambling this summer with the elections. There are more questions than answers,” Bieniek admitted. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, a Republican, said he has enjoyed a “good relationship” with Delgado and was excited he would be serving in a new role. Still, he acknowledged his departure opened the door for Republicans to recapture the seat. 

“Any time you have a president with low approval ratings it opens the door for the opposition party. I think we’ve seen it swing both ways decade after decade,” Ossenfort said. “I want to try to focus on working with people on the tasks at hand and not the politics, that was what I saw with [Delgado].”

Reporter Ashley Onyon contributed to this report. 

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

Categories: -News-, Photo Galleries, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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