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Diana Reyna says experience counts in race for N.Y. lieutenant governor

The Democratic candidates for New York lieutenant governor debate on June 15, 2022.
Spectrum News
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Spectrum News
The Democratic candidates for New York lieutenant governor debate on June 15, 2022.

In the closing days of New York’s primary campaign, we’re hearing from the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor. Governor Kathy Hochul tapped Antonio Delgado as her second L.G. last month. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is running with activist Ana Maria Archila, and Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi’s running mate is former New York City Councilor Diana Reyna.

Since voters in Tuesday’s election will pick nominees for governor and lieutenant governor separately, the race has gotten significant attention this year.

For people who haven't made their mind up in this primary election, what is your closing message to Democratic voters?

I am a first generation Dominican-American I was born and raised in Los Sures, Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I'm a lifelong common sense Democrat with a record of results and distinction. I served 22 years in public service. I'm a mother of two young high school students attending high schools riding the train every day. Public safety is at the top of the list for my candidacy as lieutenant governor with my running mate, Tom Suozzi. I'm the wife of a lieutenant in the NYPD. He served with distinction for 25 years, we are both public servants to our great state of New York. We choose to stay in New York. And in order to remain in New York, what is on the minds of every New Yorker; their public safety, the safety of their families, the safety of their travels, to work, the travel of their children going to school. We're interested in making sure that we're going back to the fundamentals of government, we have to inspect what we expect out of our government.

We have to motivate voters to understand their engagement matters. We see what our communities are struggling with. We understand what's facing our neighborhoods across the state, whether it's broadband issues in upstate New York, the opportunities to be able to address and tackle what are community plans that invigorate the upstate communities for economic development. We have to help our small businesses thrive and remain open. We have to address what is the crisis of education, where we see kids falling behind in the Bronx of a principal, claiming that her sixth grade class 95% of the children cannot read at their grade level. Those are issues that rise to the level of criminality. We cannot have that in this state in the United States of America. This is an opportunity to do better to work together because we deserve better and our state government has failed us.

Let me specifically ask you how you see the role of Lieutenant Governor functioning. One of your opponents Ana Maria, our Chela says she'll be an activist Lieutenant Governor. The other current Lieutenant Governor Delgado says he's a partner for Governor Kathy Hochul’s vision. Because the office has its constitutional limits, what specifically would you do as lieutenant governor?

The opportunities to be able to work with community to be able to plan with community to be able to direct and have oversight over the resources. I, for example, had what was one of my final projects in my district as a council member to deck over the BQE. That's the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. In the administration, there was a lot of adulation for the project, but claiming there was no resource. It's a immigrant community. And we've failed time and time again as a government to look beyond what is just the face of an immigrant community. The opportunities to see people as hard working citizens of our state to be able to gain the same access for improving the air quality of our neighborhood.

And Governor Hochul as lieutenant governor was able to secure a billion dollars in Buffalo to do the same project where we were told there was no money for the community of the south side of Williamsburg. These are the inequities that we know exist in our government, when Latinos are not respected. When Latinos are not part of the formula. When Latinos are not brought to the table, then we have to bring a chair and sit and invite ourselves. This is an opportunity for Latinos to have a voice at the highest level of government in the state of New York. That is a priority. The opportunities to be able to address what is a conversation, so that it's not polarizing, to address the fixes we need in bail reform, to address the discovery process and introduce technology so that we're able to understand that the discovery process cannot continue to leave people languishing for court dates and the court process, we have to hold our judicial system accountable just as much as our law enforcement.

And we have to restore trust. This is about engagement, and planning, and resource allocation, where it's most needed. That is how we were able to see the changes in the city of New York, when crime stats were created. We need government stats, we need to understand where the data is and drive ourselves to be able to direct resources where we want to tackle problems in the east side of Buffalo, that shooting historically black community faced what was a white supremacist crime, and the opportunities to be able to hear from families that say “why were we targeted, we're just hard working people trying to mind our business,” the opportunities to be able to hear them say how they're taking their public schools, and giving them transportation to travel further, to get an education. That is not right. There is no justice in that. We should be helping those residents revitalize their community, allocating resources that already exist. We have a $220 billion budget in the state of New York and we don't know where that money is going. We don't see where that money is going. When the same traditional Black and brown communities suffer poverty, suffer displacement, suffer unemployment, we need economic driven vision, access accessibility, to opportunities to work, so that families have opportunities to purchase their own home, remain in their own communities. We lost 300,000 people last year from the state of New York, people are choosing to leave. We're hemorrhaging our population. In 1957, we had 45 congressional districts. Today we have 26. This isn't something that has been going on overnight or due to the pandemic. This has been consistent. And we can't continue to ignore it.

Now our time is limited. So I do have a couple of more questions for you to get in here. Sorry to interrupt. Lieutenant governors, as we've seen often in New York, rise to become governor. We've had two in the last 15 years who became governor. For people listening to this, what qualifies you to be governor, if that eventuality came to pass?

I'm ready on day one. Governing is not the same as being an activist. You can’t activate what is working in the government that oversees $220 billion based on what are—organizing rallies, being an advocate. Running government requires skills.

Are you criticizing your fellow candidate here Ana María Archila, just to be sure?

There's only one activist who continues to identify herself as having been a 20-year activist qualifying her as what could be the potential governor. A socialist, right. She identifies the being part of the Democratic Socialists of America. People want centered representation, pragmatic conversations, not legislatures that closed the door on conversation. It cannot be that when we disagree you're against and that you're tarnished, or belittled, the opportunities to be able to engage in conversation, collaboration, and being able to negotiate is the process of government. We need leaders that understand how to tackle crime, how to fix bail reform, how to lower our taxes, how to cut utility rates. We need to restore trust in government. We have to get rid of the corruption. The opportunities to see what is an effort to move forward, to not bring ideology to dictate conversations. We're not living in theory. We're living in fear, fear that we're not going to be able to champion equity in education, environmental justice, affordable housing, economic opportunities.

Lastly, if you end up winning Tuesday's primary and your running mate, Tom Suozzi does not win his primary against Governor Hochul and Jumaane Williams, how will you approach the role as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor on a ticket that could include Governor Hochul? And how would you approach the role of being a lieutenant governor for a governor you didn't run with potentially?

This is about leadership and vision and the opportunity to work with who wins the gubernatorial race on Tuesday, will mean collaboration and partnership and trust. We will begin by trusting one another. And speaking with one another. This is an opportunity for us to tackle the real problems that are happening in the state of New York. We cannot wait a single day. The opportunities to be able to work with Tom Suozzi as the chosen candidate that I've endorsed, continues to remain at the top of the ticket come Tuesday. And I am hopeful that he will be the gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic Party. Because people have spoken people are speaking, people are voting, and what we want is for people to turn out not to take this for granted. We need people to get involved, to send a clear message to Albany. People are sick and tired of seeing crime rise. They were sick and tired of seeing their taxes going up and seeing nothing getting better.

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