Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, 45, is blazing a campaign trail across downstate in an effort to connect with more New York City voters and ensure his re-election with Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The Amsterdam News caught up with Delgado in between campaign stops at a futuristic and artisanal coffee shop, Voyager Espresso, that’s located underground near a train station in Lower Manhattan. The shop is run by a local Dominican American couple. The coffee shop’s design was inspired by the 1977 spacecraft, said William Mejia, one of the owners.
Walking down the somewhat hidden stairs, away from the bustling tourists on Williams and John Street, and peering through giant glass doors to greet Delgado definitely felt like a top secret mission that was a little out of this world.
Delgado has spent a very brief time as the state’s first Afro Latino lieutenant governor since his swearing in at the tail end of May. He said he draws on his experiences as an upstate congress member for the 18th District, an athlete, church-goer, and Rhodes scholar to target a diverse array of voters as the countdown to the June primaries begins. Here’s what he had to say in the short time allotted about his role as Lt. Gov., his campaign, and about himself. (Questions and answers have been shortened or edited for space and clarity.)
AmNews: Tell me a little bit about the city of Schenectady. That’s where you’re from, right?
Delgado: Yes. Born and raised in a working class family. My parents worked for General Electric, back when GE had a real strong presence for a lot of families. We moved probably six or seven different times to safer neighborhoods. As my parents put more and more money away, [we] ended up moving into our first brand new home my freshman year of high school. So I literally watched my parents work us up into the middle class. Church was [also] a big factor in my life. I went to Macedonia Baptist Church in Albany. [I] was baptized there. That was very much a part of my upbringing because it wasn’t just church on Sundays, it was Sunday school, choir practice, summer vacation, Bible school. There was a lot of church growing up and education. Big time.
AmNews: Do you ever worry about who’s going to fill your seat if you get reelected?
Delgado: I know [Ulster County Executive] Pat Ryan has decided to run in the special election. I think he’s a very strong candidate for Congress.
AmNews: You released a series of campaign ads recently, $1.5 million for TV called Game Changer and $300,000 ad buy for radio. Do you ever feel like you’re pandering to downstate because we don’t know you as well?
Delgado: [I] want to be able to connect to people where they are, meet them where they are, and listen to them on the ground. And so what we try to do through the ads is to convey to people who I am. No matter their backgrounds, no matter the stories, you know. [I’m] somebody who’s lived a pretty diverse set of experiences, from working class to Colgate to Oxford as a Rhode Scholar to law school to being a hip hop artist to working in a law firm. Then on to be the first person of color to represent upstate New York.
AmNews: Some big, universal issues facing the city are gun violence and subway safety. Do you have a formal plan?
Delgado: You know, I lived in New York City from 2011 to 2015. I worked, I commuted, and took the subway, so I’m very familiar with how people get around in the city. More recently in talking to folks about gun violence, it’s not just gun violence but quality of life and just feeling safe in their neighborhoods. I can’t tell you how many individuals, especially our seniors, but also just concerned mothers and fathers, who pull me aside to say that we really need to get a handle on our safety here and our security. Folks are struggling to pick up groceries or to walk down the street and take care of dry cleaning, or whatever the case might be, without fear, and it shouldn’t be that way. So yes, gun violence is a real concern. The rise of crime is a real concern. [We should be] doing what we can to create more opportunities to combat that. Empowering our young people, and certainly doing what we can to get these illegal guns off the streets.
AmNews: How do you feel about the push for ‘more cops’ as an answer to gun violence?
Delgado: I think we need an all hands-on deck approach. Whether it’s making sure that we have law enforcement that is embedded in the community in a healthy and constructive way and that they’re empowered with resources to make sure that they can do their jobs. [Or] whether it’s other professionals, like social workers, to step in and address some of the more social realities when it comes to mental health and substance abuse. I think it’s also focusing on the rise of hate just more broadly. The ways in which political leaders are utilizing that hate to drive wedges between communities and incite violence as a result of that.
AmNews: How do you feel about your opponents in the Lt. Gov.’s race saying you’re not Latino or the media hyperfocusing on your identity as an Afro Latino?
Delgado: I’m Afro Latino. I’m African American with both Cape Verdean roots and Latino roots. My mother has roots in Latin America. My father has roots in Cape Verde. So that’s my background, and like a lot of New Yorkers, I have a mixed background. My focus is really trying to figure out how no matter what room I’m in, no matter who I’m in front of, whether you’re Black or white or Brown, that I’m gonna listen to you, that I’m gonna engage with you, that I’m gonna do the work to empower marginalized communities.
AmNews: Do you think former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has overshadowed you in your position as the Lt. Gov.? Do you feel like you’re just the ‘Black man who’s a runner-up’ so that Hochul saves herself from political embarrassment?
Delgado: I look at myself and say, ‘What’s in my control?’ That is what I am focused on. The work. And making sure that as I introduce myself to the folks all across the state, they get a real chance to hear directly from me and get a chance to know my story. How I define leadership, and what it means to be a public servant. That’s what I control. And that’s what I continue to control.
AmNews: In Congress, you have more power in terms of legislation or impact and it seems like as Lt. Gov. you’re seen as someone who tours the state and doesn’t really do much for the people. How do you feel about that sentiment?
Delgado: The most important piece is making sure that one is an active partner with the governor. These are discussions that I’ve had directly with the governor going into this position to make sure she understood that. She understands the importance of my perspective, from a policy standpoint and having been a legislator in Congress, having secured billions of dollars to the state of New York to local governments directly. I think there is an appreciation for what I can bring to bear based on my relationships with my former colleagues in Congress and also with my ability to develop similar relationships with individuals in the state body and become a real liaison.
AmNews: What’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
Delgado: I’m in the upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame. I love basketball and I was inducted some years ago. I was a shooting guard. I definitely miss, you know, being young enough to actually play like I used to play.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w