Hochul shoots down criticism on quick pick for lieutenant gov

Governor Kathy Hochul announces her appointment of Congressman Antonio Delgado as Lieutenant Governor during a news conference in the Red Room at the State Capitol. Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul Tuesday pushed back on critics who called her new pick for Lieutenant Governor  “a subversion of democracy.” 

Hochul’s pick of U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D – Mid-Hudson) as her choice for the state’s second-in-command came less than 24 hours after the state legislature pushed through a change in the law that allowed her former number two Brian Benjamin – who was indicted on federal bribery charges – to remove his name from the ballot.

“I say they’re wrong,” Hochul said. “I say it’s a subversion of democracy, to allow the circumstance where voters are being asked to select someone who’s actually said they’re not running for office. I mean, that’s the situation we had. And if you talk to anybody outside this universe, ask someone if they think someone who’s already said they’re not running, they have a legal issue they have to deal with, and that they’re still on the ballot, no one would think that makes sense. So I think the critics are wrong on that issue.”

Hochul’s clear rebuke of her critics came in response to a reporter’s question Tuesday during a press conference to announce her pick of Delgado as her new number two.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado. Photo courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul.

The news broke that Hochul had picked Delgado to replace Brian Benjamin Tuesday morning mere hours after the state legislature passed and she signed a controversial piece of legislation allowing Benjamin to take his name off the June primary ballot. Benjamin, who resigned last month after the indictment, vehemently denies the charges, but said Monday he would willingly remove his name from the ballot once the law passed. 

The law, which allows any nominated or designated candidates charged or convicted of one or more crimes to remove themselves from the ballot, received significant rebukes from Republican and some Democratic lawmakers in both the state Senate and Assembly as it worked its way through both chambers. Many lawmakers’ primary concern wasn’t the law itself, but the fact that Hochul seemed to be pushing for its passage now to replace Benjamin and give herself a do-over in the June Democratic Primary

For his part, Delgado said he isn’t worried about leaving his short but successful Congressional career and becoming embroiled in the same ethical issues that torpedoed the tenure of his soon-to-be predecessor.

“I know that being able to engage with the governor, having discussions, understanding what the future could hold, understanding the impact that I can have on the state and understanding what I can bring to the table in that regard, that was where I was coming at this from,” Delgado said. “The sort of external dynamics that people like to pontificate about and extrapolate about and opine about, that’s all well and good. But at the end of the day, these decisions are made from a place of within more than they are from a place of without.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado. Photo courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul.

Delgado is set to have his name on the June primary ballot and take his place as Hochul’s new Lieutenant Governor later this month, the governor said, after the committee on vacancies approved him Tuesday.

Delgado first entered the House in 2018 when he flipped New York’s 19th Congressional District from Republican to Democratic and was able to ward off a challenge from Republican candidate Marc Molinaro in 2020. He grew up in Schenectady, lived in New York City for a time and now lives in Rhinebeck with his wife Lacey and twin sons, Maxwell and Coltrane.

During the press conference a reporter questioned why Delgado, a reportedly popular Congressman, would leave a swing district in an election year when Democrats are trying to hold onto their House majority – especially after the New York State Court of Appeals threw out the Democratic-controlled legislatures’ new district maps last week. Delgado responded that he wanted the opportunity to connect more with people on the ground, not just in his Congressional district, but around the state.

“For me, it wasn’t a choice to leave, it was a choice to go to,” Delgado said. “To embrace, as I noted, the ability to connect with folks across the whole state. It was about building off of the work that I had been doing and having a strong desire to continue to serve and expand my ability to connect with communities. That that was what fundamentally drove me.”