19TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT -- Congressman-elect Antonio Delgado touched on a wide range of issues during his first interview following his election night victory over John Faso.
In a conference call with reporters, Delgado spoke about what committees he’d like to be assigned to, how to address issues of incivility in congress and how he plans to conduct himself while in office.
Delgado said he plans to continue to host town hall meetings throughout the district, as he did during the campaign. He also plans to make sure to open more offices across the region than his predecessor and to make sure his constituents know how to reach him when they need to.
It’s an approach he said he plans to discuss with people like former U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, so he can figure out how to best engage with the people in his district.
“You can count on me having a real presence across this district,” Delgado said.
During a contentious campaign that saw major spending on both sides, some of the back-and-forth was over healthcare policies.
Delgado criticized Faso for supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He put out ads that claimed Faso broke his promise to defend protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions when he voted in favor of repealing the bill.
In his defense, Faso said the Republican bill to repeal the ACA, which ultimately failed to pass into law, would not have reduced those protections.
What Delgado said he wants to see is universal coverage. He also would like to see those with Medicare get more negotiating power in dealing with “big pharma.”
Other issues Delgado said he would like to focus on include infrastructure and education.
He also said that, though he doesn’t have “clear visibility” because he’s not in Washington yet, there are some committee posts he would like: the Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Education and Workforce committees, specifically.
There are several small and mid-tier farms throughout the 19th District, Delgado said, in explaining why he wanted to be on the Agriculture Committee. He said he wanted to help farmers gain access to more markets, so they can sell what they grow.
With workforce development, Delgado said he understands there are jobs in various trades that have gone unfulfilled, due to a lack of trained candidates. He said young people need to develop skills in order to be more competitive in the marketplace
Infrastructure is an area in which Delgado sees room for bipartisan agreement, he said. Specifically, he said he would like to help small businesses get better broadband access and quality cellular service. He also said part of his infrastructure effort would be to place more emphasis on renewable energy in rural areas and steering away from fossil fuels.
He said such a focus could help in multiple ways: “Not just in protecting the environment, but in creating the type of jobs that are more sustainable and pay good wages."
Delgado's victory was part of a power shift in the House of Representatives, where Democrats will now be the majority party, thanks to other Democrat victories on Tuesday. Delgado was asked who he planned to support as speaker of the house, and whether he would put his weight behind former speaker U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the current minority leader.
“I have not pledged my support to anybody or made any such decision,” Delgado answered.
The race between Delgado and Faso was marked by contention. Faso, at one point, brought up Delgado’s history as a hip hop artist, including lyrics of some of his works, published under the name "AD the Voice."
Faso cited lyrics containing the N-word and songs that touched on what Delgado saw as moral issues surrounding capitalism and the legacy of slavery. During the campaign, Faso argued those lyrics were “not consistent with the view of most of the people in our district, nor do they represent a true reflection of our nation.”
Delgado said he was able to get through the political attacks by relying on the goodness of people, as well as their humanity and sense of decency.
“And I feel that, in the end, that faith panned out, because it’s real, and I think you have to be willing on some level to just be open,” Delgado said. “To truly see yourself in others and to truly engage in what you speak about ... you have to put that energy out there. You can’t just talk about it. You have to actually lead in that regard.”
Delgado said doing so gave him independence and led to him to Tuesday's victory. He said voters were able to see through negative attacks and saw him as the best candidate to represent his district’s values.
“The community here made a statement about what it is they want,” Delgado said. “They want solutions-oriented, independent thought. They want decency. That’s what I ran on.”
Delgado said he plans to take that mindset to Congress. He said he is willing to collaborate with others, as long as it is consistent with what he believes are the values of the country.
“As a representative and as a public servant, we have a priority and an obligation to make sure we put the interests of America first and focus on the needs and desires of our constituents,” Delgado said. “To the extent there are opportunities to do that with [President Donald Trump] and across the aisle, I will do that.”