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Two Candidates Enter NY19 Race

With the Congressional primary less than five months away, the race for New York’s 19th district is slowly taking shape on the Republican side. And the 2018 Green Party candidate is running again. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has more on what has previously been a swing district contest.

First-term Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado is running for re-election in a district that Inside Elections and Congressional Quarterly Roll Call have changed from “tossup” in 2018 to “tilt Democratic.” Republican Tony German, a retired two-star general, dropped out of the race in January, leaving two in the GOP still running — Poughkeepsie fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh and Mike Roth, considered a far-right candidate. The latest Republican to announce a run is Kyle Van De Water of Millbrook, a veteran and an attorney with a Poughkeepsie-headquartered law firm. Dr. Christopher Mann is assistant professor of Political Science at Skidmore College. He characterizes Delgado’s incumbency as strong.

“Even without much of a threat, Delgado has $2 million in the bank, and he’s demonstrated that he can raise a good deal more,” Mann says. “So someone’s really got to be able to perform on that side of the equation, and that’s a lot of work and it deters a lot of people from wanting to run in any race, but especially when you know that that’s going to be a big part of what you have to do.”

2018 Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield of New Paltz officially launched his campaign this week. Two years ago, he won less than 2 percent of the vote as first-term Republican John Faso lost his reelection bid. He criticizes Delgado’s voting record.

“He’s done nothing but vote in favor of Wall Street, giant corporations, the war machine,” Greenfield says. “Most recently, I mean, and this was the straw that really broke the camel’s back and confirmed that I needed to get into this race, he voted to approve the U.S.M.C.A. to replace NAFTA,  and the U.S.M.C.A. contains significant tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry.”

The U.S.M.C.A. is the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal President Trump signed in January. Delgado spoke on the House floor in December before voting for the deal, which he said is not a panacea but could help the roughly 5,000 small farms in his district.

“The U.S.M.C.A. will maintain and, in some cases, increase for our farmers access to critical markets in Canada and Mexico,” Delgado says. “I’ll cast my vote to ratify this important agreement with strength and protections for American workers and organized labor as well as facility-specific enforcement mechanisms for these new terms.”    

Skidmore’s Mann says the current field against Delgado could dim what has been a bright spotlight in recent campaign cycles.

“The Republicans should be targeting it nationally, and the trouble finding a challenger means the playing field is a little bit shrunken and we may see more attention to other races in New York, not right here in the Capital region, but where there’s some other races around the state that’ll probably mean they get more attention because this one won’t be in the mix unless the Republicans find a stronger candidate or one of these candidates in the race emerges as stronger than people expect,” Mann says.

There was hope among committee Republicans that Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro would consider a run, but he has decided to sit this one out. President Donald Trump won the 19th District in 2016 by 6.8 percentage points. Mann says the combination of Delgado’s high-figure campaign account and Trump being at the top of the ticket could discourage certain Republicans from running.

“Certainly I think it’s different to have the president on the ballot. That is a district where a more moderate or less Trump Republican probably runs stronger against Delgado than the Trump wing of the party,” says Mann. “But being on the ticket with Trump probably deters some of those very same kinds of Republicans who would fit the profile of the district quite well.”

Delgado, of Rhinebeck, prefers to focus on his job at hand than comment on the race and his opponents specifically.

“Well, my focus is on my job, and I’m going to keep making sure that I am out there being accessible to every single individual all throughout this district irrespective of party affiliation and make sure we keep talking and fighting for affordable health care, make sure we keep fighting for infrastructure and broadband, make sure we keep fighting to support our veterans, make sure we keep fighting to deal with the opioid epidemic and to take on Lyme disease,” says Delgado. “This is my focus; I’m going to keep focusing on it because that’s the job.”

Hawatmeh, who says she has $140,000 in her coffers, has yet to acquire the needed petition signatures that are due April 2, but is confident she will.

“I’m still going to go, go forth with a primary,” says Hawatmeh.

The two-time cancer survivor and survivor of domestic violence supports building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Hawatmeh is the daughter of Christian immigrants from Jordan.

“I look at other Middle Eastern… I mean, I look at Ilan Omar, I’m like, ok Republican Party, I’m going to be the Republican… you guys are going to use AOC and Ilhan Omar. Here’s a force not to reckon with, and here’s Ola Hawatmeh,” Hawatmeh says. “As, as… I don’t think there’s ever been a Middle Eastern Conservative Christian running for Congress.”

She refers to Democratic Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Meantime, Greenfield says the dynamics have changed this time around.

“This is very different from 2018,” Greenfield says. “I consider my race this year to be absolutely viable and potentially victorious.”

The 19th congressional district sprawls across 11 counties. The primary election is June 23rd.

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