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 he denies.
Hochul touted fellow Delgado’s work in Congress on bills to help veterans, small business and those with student loan debt. Delgado, a Rhodes Scholar who briefly pursued a rap career after earning a Harvard law degree, had campaigned on universal access to Medicare, creating good jobs and eliminating tax loopholes for the rich.
“Having won competitive primary and general elections for Congress, Rep. Antonio Delgado is a battle-tested campaigner who has the experience to serve New Yorkers and the work ethic to get our party’s message out to voters, unite communities, and lift up Democratic candidates statewide,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
It was unclear immediately when Delgado, who was first elected in 2018 to represent the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, would take office.
Benjamin was facing charges including bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsification of records. He has pleaded not guilty. Hochul on Monday signed a law that will allow Benjamin’s name to be removed from the ballot in the state’s upcoming Democratic primary, and potentially allow Delgado to run for the lieutenant governor’s job if he wants it permanently.
Delgado was the first person of color elected to represent upstate New York in Congress, and is a member of the Black and Hispanic Congressional Caucuses.
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 now working on new maps, which 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 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.
Hochul’s own electoral record in New York is mixed: She won a 2011 special election to represent New York’s 26th Congressional District against Republican Jane Corwin at a 47-42 margin. She landed a National Rifle Association endorsement but lost her 2012 reelection bid in a redrawn, more GOP-friendly district against Republican Chris Collins.
Hochul later defeated New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in the 2018 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor at a 53-47 margin.
She's now running for a full gubernatorial term with a big fundraising lead in the Democratic primary against Williams and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island.
A Buffalo native, Hochul had 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.
Her selection of Delgado comes following passage of a state budget that reflected Hochul’s desire to attract upstate and suburban voters: she landed an unprecedently generous $1.1 billion public subsidy for a new suburban stadium for the Buffalo Bills and set aside $350 million for economic development projects on Long Island.
She also tried to appease centrist and Republican concerns about crime by tweaking New York’s landmark law that did away with pretrial incarceration for people accused of most nonviolent offenses. The Democratic-led Legislature ended up passing a watered down version of Hochul’s original proposal that critics say unfairly targets low-level repeat offenders.
Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press