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Three Democrats make for a competitive primary for LG in NY

Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado speaks at pro-choice rally in Albany
Ashley Hupfl
Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado speaks at pro-choice rally in Albany

The race for governor is getting the most attention in the June 28 primary for statewide elected offices in New York. But on the Democratic side, there’s also a contest for who will be the state’s next lieutenant governor. That position can prove to be an important one.

Twice in the past 15 years, a lieutenant governor in New York found themselves suddenly elevated to governor. First, it was David Paterson who took over when Eliot Spitzer resigned over a prostitution scandal. Then, last August, Kathy Hochul became governor when Andrew Cuomo resigned over allegations of sexual harassment and other scandals.

In this year’s Democratic primary for the position, three candidates are running: Antonio Delgado, Ana Maria Archila, and Diana Reyna. Each is associated with a candidate who is running for governor, but in the primary, they are elected separately.

Kathy Hochul, who is seeking election to a full term, has chosen Delgado, a former Hudson Valley Congressman, for her running mate. Delgado is actually a late replacement for Hochul’s initial choice, Brian Benjamin. Benjamin was appointed to the position last September, but resigned in April after being indicted on federal corruption charges.

Delgado, who is of African-American and Cape Verdean descent, grew up in Schenectady. He attended the University of Oxford in England on a Rhodes scholarship, graduated from Harvard Law School, and lived and worked in New York City for a time with his wife and twin sons before winning the congressional seat in 2018.

Hochul chose Delgado on May 3 to replace Benjamin, and he was sworn in on May 25.

“I’m excited to partner with you and to build a better future for New York,” Delgado said on May 3.

In a mid-June news conference with Hochul, Delgado said he was still getting his bearings, and could not yet say what his portfolio might be. He did say he could be helpful in being a liaison with the federal government for projects.

“Projects that speak to economic development,” said Delgado, who added that could include infrastructure, housing, and broadband internet expansion.

“We’re still figuring out exactly how to target each of these different areas,” Delgado said.

Many Democratic Party leaders and major unions have endorsed Delgado. But even though Hochul is ahead of her two opponents in the polls, Delgado is largely unknown to voters, and a victory is not assured.

Ana Maria Archila is running for lieutenant governor as the running mate of New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Archila, a Columbian American and progressive activist, first received widespread attention when she confronted former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona in an elevator at the U.S. Capitol during the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. The event went viral, and progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez invited Archila to attend the 2019 State of the Union address.

Archila is backed by many grassroots progressive groups, and is the nominee for the left-leaning Working Families Party. She believes the role of lieutenant governor should be more active than has traditionally been the case. She says, if elected, she would be a “real force in Albany,” and that she does not intend to spend her time “just cutting ribbons."

Archila spoke during a debate on Spectrum News.

“The way that lieutenant governors have embodied this role is not helpful, just waiting for assignments from the governor,” Archila said. “The lieutenant governor is directly elected by the people.”

Archila says because of that, the position’s power and mandate are derived from the voters, and the lieutenant governor should “partner” with advocacy groups and state legislators to further their agenda.

The third candidate for lieutenant governor, Diana Reyna, is the running mate of Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi. Reyna, a former New York City Council member and Brooklyn Deputy Borough President, was the first Dominican American woman elected to public office in New York state.

Like Suozzi, Reyna identifies herself as a “common-sense” Democrat with more moderate views than the traditional Democratic Party. The two have highlighted rising crime rates and spoken in opposition to the state’s 2019 bail reform laws, which ended many forms of cash bail. She’s also expressed concerns over high property taxes.

“As common-sense Democrats, we’re not going to follow what is the norm,” Reyna said when she was chosen by Suozzi in February. “This is about standing outside of what is the Democratic Party to be able to send our message clearly to every New Yorker.”

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will automatically be on a combined ticket with the winner of the primary for governor in the general election. It’s possible that Hochul, the front-runner, could end up with Archila, or even Reyna, as her running mate. Both candidates have different views from Hochul on a variety of topics.

The governor, asked about that possibility by reporters, says she is not even entertaining that right now.

“I don’t engage in hypotheticals,” Hochul said on June 20. “Antonio will be the next lieutenant governor of the State of New York.”

There is no Republican primary for lieutenant governor. The GOP, in its nominating convention, chose Alison Esposito, the running mate of Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin. She is running unopposed.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.