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Ulster County Exec. Ryan, state Senator Hinchey consider run for House with Delgado leaving

 Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan
Allison Dunne
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan

After New York 19th District Congressman Antonio Delgado was introduced Tuesday as the state’s next lieutenant governor, the Democratic candidacy for November’s congressional election is up for grabs. At least two Democrats currently in elected office are considering a run.

Within hours of Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul introducing Delgado Tuesday as her choice for lieutenant governor, speculation and consideration of which Democrats would consider jumping into the race were ramping up.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan tweeted that he is weighing the possibility. And he spoke exclusively with WAMC later in the day.

“Yeah, I’ve only been in elected office for a few years, but I’ve felt a real sense of ability to help and serve the community, whether it’s fighting Central Hudson or dealing with a pandemic or trying to bring our IBM site back to life, all the things we’ve been working on, getting mental health beds for the community,” says Ryan. “So whatever way I can continue to do that and elevate that and fight, that’s what I’m trying to weigh now and factor in my 3-year old and 4-month old and all the other, the inside baseball, political redistricting.”

Ryan ran against Delgado in the 2018 Democratic primary for the seat.

New York’s highest court last month tossed out redrawn district maps as “unconstitutional,” citing Democrats’ gerrymandering the districts to favor their candidates. With a Democratic appeal in process, it is unclear if the House district will change, yet Ryan says that’s not at the heart of his decision whether to run.

Meantime, first-term Democratic State Senator Michelle Hinchey also says she’s considering whether a run for Congress is the right move for her this year.

“My goal has always been to serve the people and serve the community that raised me, serve the community where I grew up. And what I’m focused on is how best I can continue to do that, how best I can continue to make a difference and a real difference for the people who live in upstate New York. And so whether that’s in Albany or in Washington, we’re considering all options, but the main point is to make sure that whatever choice we make, it’s the one that we’ll be able to deliver the best and deliver real results for people who live across our area.”

Hinchey’s late father Maurice Hinchey represented the region in Congress for two decades.

If Ryan is the Democratic candidate in a swing district that Delgado flipped in 2018, he likely would face Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, with whom he has worked closely since taking office in 2019 via a special election.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday after introducing Delgado, Hochul says they’re working out the timing of everything while noting a statutory requirement to call a special election within 10 days of the vacancy being created and within 70 to 80 days to have the special election. Hochul says she’ll be happy to announce a special election as soon as she knows what that looks like.

Publicly, Ryan and Molinaro have held press conferences together and appear to have a good relationship. Ryan says he’ll work with anyone to get things done.

“But I also think, interestingly, that the coming out of the pandemic moment, and seeing how different communities come out of it, how different leaders are prioritizing; for example, how we’re spending our federal relief money, there have been stark, stark differences between the county and community that I’m leading in investing in mental health, in investing in infrastructure, in investing in housing versus investing in millions of dollars to build luxury box seats at a minor league baseball stadium, for example,” says Ryan. “So those are clear, stark distinctions where I can have great personal relationships with people, but strong differences in our values and then how those manifest in actually serving our residents, so.”

Already taking shots at Molinaro, Ryan was referring to Dutchess Stadium in Molinaro’s county.

Molinaro was unable to respond in time for this broadcast, but his spokesperson released a statement taking aim at Delgado, claiming the departing congressman and his party are responsible for the crime wave, out of control inflation, and illegal attempts to draw themselves safe districts. The statement goes on to say, quote, “We were going to win against Delgado and we’ll win the special election when it’s announced. We aren’t changing course, we are full speed ahead.”

“Do you have a deadline for yourself by when you’d like to make a decision?” Dunne asks.

“No. I think I have to just talk with my wife. She’s the most important partner, and I really love this job, so I have to weigh all that stuff,” says Ryan.

Delgado emerged victorious from a field of seven Democrats in the 2018 primary. Ryan was second. Ryan, who served two combat tours in Iraq as an Army intelligence officer, says it’s important to restore trust in government.

“I fought for our democracy. That’s why I joined the Army because I believe in our democratic system, and now there are just so many people, I think, questioning our democratic system. So it’s almost personal for me to convince people that government can work. Democracy is the best system,” Ryan says. “And you compare that to what’s happening with a dictator like Putin, and that strengthens our case on the global scale but, locally, we have to show that government can deliver and that democracy can work.”

Ryan and Hinchey spoke during a public comment forum on Central Hudson’s billing practices, storm response and more that they co-hosted Tuesday night with state Assemblymember Kevin Cahill.

Delgado will succeed Brian Benjamin, who was indicted on multiple federal corruption charges and resigned from office in April.

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