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Antonio Delgado Briefs Reporters Before Being Sworn In

WAMC, Allison Dunne

Just before being sworn in to represent New York’s 19th Congressional District, Antonio Delgado held a conference call with reporters today. Delgado answered a wide range of questions, from constituent services to the partial government shutdown.

Delgado won a seven-way Democratic primary before unseating first-term Republican John Faso in November. Delgado responded to a question about how he would navigate disagreements between the centrist and progressive wings of the Democratic Party. Delgado says it’s all about serving his constituents.

“I think it’s important that anybody who goes to Congress puts their constituents first, and that should be the North Star. It is for me,” Delgado says. “It’s always about how my decisions are going to impact the folks who sent me here.” 

Also crucial, he says, is finding common ground, and between both Republican and Democratic Parties.

Delgado says leadership is advancing two packages Thursday to end the partial government shutdown. One, he says, consists of six bills already approved by Senate Republicans that would reopen all government agencies except the Department of Homeland Security, while a second would extend funding for that Department through February 8. President Trump has said funding for the construction of a wall at the border with Mexico has been key to any bill to end the shutdown. Delgado says Democrats are proposing what has already been supported by Republicans.

“So if they decide to act otherwise, that would be irresponsible. And I think we are trying to act in good faith here, making sure that we are starting on terms that have already been agreed to by the other side of the aisle,” says Delgado. “To be clear, none of these bills contain new wall funding and that, to me, is the appropriate option.”

The Rhinebeck resident says he had not thought about whether to refuse pay during a government shutdown, as some of his colleagues have done, but it’s worth consideration.

Delgado also addressed questions about where he would site district offices. He says a district office in Kingston, on Clinton Avenue, would open this month, and an office in Delhi, in Delaware County, would open soon. His team is also looking in Columbia, Otsego and Sullivan Counties as potential sites and says access for constituents is key.

“We are looking at areas all across the district and anticipate that we are going to have a strong presence everywhere,” says Delgado.

In addition, his plan is to hold town halls in each of the district’s 11 counties by the end of the year. Delgado says he will offer robust constituent services.

“We’re going to have more offices. I would liken it more toward, or reckon it more to Congressman Gibson, former Congressman Gibson’s approach in terms of the volume or number of caseworkers that we’re going to have across the district,” says Delgado. “They’ll be at least four or five, if not more.”

Republican Chris Gibson preceded Faso in office. Faso had district offices in Kingston, Delhi and Kinderhook.

Delgado says broadband access is not operating on a level playing field, affecting economic development and growth. He says he will work to help address the problem that affects the more rural parts of his district, such as Sullivan County, and has spoken with Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the issue.

“I did have a chance to speak with the leader, speak with other individuals who have worked on rural broadband or broadband access across the country, in other parts of the country,” Delgado says. “I hope to team up with them and figure out how we can put together a package that can have a real impact for folks here in New York 19.”

As for House committees, Delgado says has is pushing hard to serve on the Agriculture Committee as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Delgado’s call with reporters came a few hours before activist groups were to rally in Kingston, calling on him to support democracy reform and a clean Continuing Resolution to end the partial shutdown without any funding for a border wall. The rally is part of the group Indivisible’s “Whose House? Our House!” national day of action.

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