Gov. Kathy Hochul moved to fill the vacant lieutenant governor position on Tuesday, tapping Rep. Antonio Delgado to take the role. That appointment makes the congressman the second-highest ranking state official in New York. He is also expected to be her running mate in the upcoming election.
Hochul’s announcement comes one day after the state Legislature passed a new law that allows former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin to be removed from that ballot because of his federal indictment on corruption charges, marking a major change to state election law.
In a statement on Twitter, Hochul praised her new No. 2 and leaned into the history-making potential of their shared leadership.
“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,” Hochul tweeted. She added, “With Antonio Delgado by my side serving as Lieutenant Governor, we will both make history – and make a difference.”
Hochul is the first woman to serve as governor of New York. Delgado is the first person of color to represent the 19th Congressional District, which currently spans portions of the Capitol district into the Hudson Valley. He is the first person of African American and Hispanic descent to be the state’s lieutenant governor.
"New Yorkers deserve a Lieutenant Governor who's working day and night to make lives better for working people and their families," Delgado said in a statement sent out by Hochul’s office announcing the appointment. "Upstate, downstate, doesn't matter. We all want the same things, security, family, and opportunity. The key is to listen to New Yorkers from all walks of life and then be their voice to get the job done."
Delgado hails from upstate New York and currently lives in Rhinebeck with his wife, Lacey, and their twin eight-year-old sons, Maxwell and Coltrane. A former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Colgate University and Harvard Law School, he was elected to Congress in 2018 after defeating Republican Rep. John Faso, whose campaign ads attacked Delgado’s decade-old career as a rap artist. The move was described by The New York Times as “race-baiting.”
“I grew up in Schenectady, and the messaging of the ad campaign against me was to paint me as something or someone who wasn’t from this place, who wasn’t of the community,” Delgado told Porter Braswell in the Race and Work podcast from the Harvard Business Review.
As a member of Congress, Delgado served as chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit, and is a member of the House Small Business and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. His track record includes passage of 18 bills signed into law under both the Trump and Biden administrations, with an emphasis on policies that enable economic support for students, veterans and small businesses.
A representative of a predominantly white and rural congressional district, Delgado has emphasized his ability to work across the aisle. His campaign website touts the two awards he won for his bipartisanship from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As the state contends with the ongoing fallout from its botched redistricting process, Delgado was already poised to face a challenging reelection campaign facing Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who ran as the Republican candidate for governor in 2018.
Hochul and Delgado appeared together for the first time on Tuesday afternoon during a briefing at the Capitol.
The governor began her remarks blasting news of a leaked U.S. Supreme court opinion that would overturn Roe. v. Wade, saying she was “absolutely horrified.” She said New York State would always defend women’s reproductive health, including access to abortion, before pivoting to her introduction to Delgado.
“I believe that New Yorkers deserve a government that is fully staffed, fully functioning and fully committed to delivering for New Yorkers,” she said before making the official announcement.
Asked about the vetting process for the L.G, after her team was roundly criticized for rushing the process for Benjamin, Hochul insisted it was far more thorough. She said her administration had staffed up significantly since last summer when she made the earlier appointment. Now the process involved the secretary to the governor, Karen Persichilli Keogh, a team of lawyers, the state police and disclosure forms.
“It was a deep dive into the background,” said Hochul. “I know we got it right.”
Delgado attended the event with several members of his family, including his two sons. He also began by admonishing the leaked opinion, calling it a move to reassert, “a social order grounded in patriarchy and male dominance over a woman's body.”
He said he hoped his new role would allow him to help New Yorkers across the state, who have been isolated by the ongoing pandemic, to recover and reconnect.
“As New Yorkers we need to heal together and put humanity back into our interactions with one another,” said Delgado. “And I want to be a part of that healing process.”
While Hochul said the committee on vacancies had submitted the necessary paperwork for Delgado’s name to appear on the ballot, the pair noted that he had not officially resigned from his congressional seat yet. Hochul also punted on a question about whether she would need to call a special election to fill the seat.
Democrats offered a mixed reaction to Delgado’s appointment.
Mayor Eric Adams praised the pick calling the congressman a, “rising star who knows how to fight for New Yorkers in our cities, suburbs and rural communities.”
At the same time, Hochul’s primary opponents blasted the recent maneuvers, both to remove Benjamin from the ballot and to appoint Delgado as his successor.
Gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, and his running mate activist Ana María Archila were set to release their anti-corruption platform outside of City Hall on Tuesday.
Ahead of the event, Archila issued a dozen questions that she said Delgado needs to answer as he jumps into the race for lieutenant governor., including, “why did you vote for a motion to table the impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019?” and “why don’t you support the Green New Deal?”
Delgado will also face Lieutenant Governor candidate Diana Reyna, who is running alongside Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.
The state’s Republican party chairman, Nick Langworthy, criticized Delgado and the Democrats for moving quickly to fill the vacancy.
In a statement, Langworthy called Delgado a “radical leftist” despite a notably moderate record, arguing he wants to “dismantle our criminal justice system and make New York a socialist state.”
“This will be a temporary job for him when we stop this insanity by electing a Republican governor who will save our state,” Langworthy added.
This story has been updated with additional information and comment.