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Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan launches second bid for Congress

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan Delivers Virtual Briefing, April 28, 2020
Courtes of the Office of Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan
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Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan Delivers Virtual Briefing, April 28, 2020

Following Monday’s release of New York’s proposed new congressional district maps drawn by a court-ordered special master, Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan says he will run in the forthcoming special election to replace Congressman Antonio Delgado. Delgado, who defeated Ryan in the 2018 primary, will be leaving the current 19th district to become lieutenant governor.

Ryan’s campaign says he will then campaign in the new 18th district this fall. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican candidate in the current 19th district, says he will continue running there. The special election to complete Delgado’s term is likely to be in August.

You obviously have run for Congress once before, what makes you want to run again?

Look, I think our democracy is at an existential moment. And we've got plenty of career politicians in Washington right now; what we need a lot more of are leaders who have actually laid it on the line for our country, you know, served in combat, built a business, united, led people during tough times. And that's really what I'm excited to bring.

You've got more experience in elected office than you had the first time you ran for Congress in 2018. What's your message to people, especially now that there's a new district to learn, about why you're qualified to be there in Washington?

I think the essence of the challenge that we face is people increasingly are feeling things coming out of Washington aren't working and aren't meeting the needs and the pressures they're feeling. You know, I'm hearing from, folks food prices and gas prices rising, concerns about global instability, of course, really a coordinated attack on women's reproductive rights at this point. And so how do we figure out how to break the sort of paralysis and the partisanship.

And what I've seen in the last few years as county executive actually really makes me optimistic that we can do that. I mean, we not only got through a really once in a generation pandemic, and kept everybody safe and healthy in Ulster County, but now we're coming out strong, you know, we're supporting small businesses, we're investing in mental health, we're investing in housing, infrastructure, we're cutting the gas tax in half, and investing in public safety. So really, for me, it's how do we bring what's worked at the local level to Washington where, everybody, I think, agree that things just are not working right now.

Well, there's been something of a scramble since the maps dropped where people are trying to figure out where they might have some options, where are the new districts were going to be. How did you decide to run in this particular district, the current 19th, soon to be 18th?

Well, so the newly drawn 18th District is kind of in every way been a part of my life. And I feel really rooted in it and sort of invested in it. I was born in the district in Kingston, I graduated high school, I went to West Point, which is also in the district. Now, of course, my wife, Rebecca and I are raising our, our 3-year-old or almost 3-year-old, our 4-month-old kids here and of course, serving as Ulster County Executive, which is a big part of the district. So you know, this district, this area's had my back, I still remember my mom's first grade class sending cards to me when I was deployed in Iraq. And so, you know, I think it's all about how can I return that favor and really continue to be of service to this community.

Why run in the special election, given the fact that if you win, you'd have to run again very quickly in the general?

I mean, with where our country is right now, we need to hold the seat and probably more importantly, the people of this community deserve a representative in Washington who's going to fight for them and continue the great work. I mean, Congressman Delgado's been phenomenal, he and I have worked very closely together. My goal would be to try to fill his big shoes, both in terms of what he's delivered on policy, but also an incredible constituent services operation that they have.Perfect example: There's an existential fight to keep open our VA in the Hudson Valley. That's happening right now. We can't not have every person at the table fighting for our community. That's an issue I will go to the end of the earth to fight for, just as an example.

Would you commit to running in the general election if you are unsuccessful in the special election?

Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm all in on this community. I mean, the procedures are the procedures and the process is the process, but I'm passionate about this community, about the issues and what's at stake. I mean, I really think a lot of people of all partisan identities feel like our democracy is really kind of at an existential point right now. And we need people that believe it can be renewed, which I very much do.

What do you mean by that?

I mean, across the board, some of the most fundamental rights that many before me and us have sought to secure from voting rights to the right of a woman to choose what she does with her own body, what we thought were settled are under attack. And at best, you have Republicans mostly saying nothing, and at worst, they're pushing this radical agenda. So people need to know that there's someone very clearly and unequivocally that's going to fight to protect those rights.

What kind of conversations did you have with Delgado about the potential of succeeding him in Congress?

Well, he and I have become genuine good friends. So I was excited today to receive his endorsement. And that kind of, I think, speaks volumes. My goal would be to, as I said, live up to his example, the great job that he's done, and really, you know, holding over 60 town halls in every corner of the district, for example, really showing up and engaging, delivering results. And I think we work closely enough that he knows that that's the kind of work ethic and approach I'll bring to the job.

Let me try out somewhat of a political theory for you here, and you can react to it. There is a line of thinking that Congressman Delgado was not 100% confident about winning reelection. And that was why he was interested in making the jump to Lieutenant Governor. Does it worry you at all that it would be difficult to win the seat?

I really stay out of the prognosticating business. I feel very confident and I know this district, it's in my blood. I know where people's heads are at. And I know that, you know, in the role I'm in now and even before I really delivered and served the district. So I think that's what matters. I think, really people understand and feel the authenticity and the passion and the fire, and someone who's going to fight. And I think that's what people are looking for.

What's your reaction to word that New York State Senator James Skoufis is also looking at this particular race?

Yeah, again, I think I've made clear where my head is at and my heart is at. I’ll let other people kind of make their decisions. But I'm all in here and believe, both for this district, that we need someone who's going to fight and, frankly, for our democracy, that we need someone who's gonna fight.

I just have one more personal question. You said that you've become good friends with Congressman Delgado. Was that a process to get to that point? And I ask that because you guys finished one-two in a seven-person primary, as I recall, in 2018. So you've run against each other. How did that build back up?

We were joking about this actually, just the other night when we were talking. And I think the way he describes it as sort of steel sharpens steel, or iron sharpens iron. I'm probably butchering his quote. But I think we made each other better in that race as public servants. I think we've worked really well together. I mean, at the height of the pandemic, we were coordinating. You know, he was in Washington writing legislation that figured out how to get direct funding to local governments, like Ulster County and other local governments in the Hudson Valley. And then I was working to figure out how can you use that. And to see that actual, very wonky, honestly, but very effective work. I mean, his formula got $34.5 million to Ulster County, for example, and hundreds of millions to other local governments in the region. That's what I think people sort of expect from elected officials at these different levels. So when you can work together and drive results it helps build that bond.

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