Local, state and federal officials weighed in Friday on the future of the 19th Congressional District as U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado prepares for his new job as lieutenant governor of New York.
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced this week she appointed Delgado, D-19, to succeed former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who resigned in April from his post after being indicted in connection with illegal campaign donations.
Delgado’s move is expected to change what the leadership of the 19th District looks like in the near future.
Unlike some congressional districts, New York’s 19th turned from primarily red, or Republican, to purple as more registered Democats moved north from New York City into the district. Prior to Delgado’s election in 2018, it had been Republican-held by John Faso from 2017-19, Chris Gibson, 2013-17 and Nan Hayworth from 2011-13. From 2007-2011 the district went Democrat led by Orleans vocalist John Hall.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called Hochul’s selection of Delgado “great news.”
“He will provide an additional voice that upstate needs,” Gillibrand said. “He is a wise and thoughtful choice.”
Gillibrand also said the governor and lieutenant governor would be “a great ticket, a great partnership.”
Delgado has held the seat since 2019 and he was expected to run for reelection later this year against Republican challenger, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who announced his candidacy last September.
Delgado’s office did not respond to numerous calls, texts and emails seeking comment.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, weighed in on Delgado stepping down from his seat in Congress.
“The people of New York will be well-served by his intellectual brilliance, tireless work ethic, strong values and his extraordinary talent for communicating with his constituents,” Pelosi said in a statement. “He and Gov. Kathy Hochul will make a terrific team, and we wish him all the best in his continued public service as lieutenant governor.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee expects to win the seat and continue to hold the 19th District.
“We are going to remind voters every step of the way what Marc Molinaro’s true record is and that’s one thing that’s not changing from a voter’s standpoint, reminding people who he is,” Committee National Political Director for Recruitment Whitney Larson said.
Shortly after Hochul announced Delgado’s appointment, Molinaro released a statement calling for a special election to replace Delgado in Congress.
“Delgado’s decision to resign midway through the election cycle shows that he knows he would lose in November because of the incredible momentum our campaign has built,” Molinaro said. “Ultimately, the congressman knows that he and his party are responsible for the crime wave, out-of-control inflation and illegal attempts to draw themselves safe districts.”
Several officials have hinted at a potential Democratic run for the 19th District in the days since the governor’s announcement.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a Democrat, has suggested he may toss his hat into the race. A short time after Hochul’s announcement Tuesday, Ryan made a series of posts on Twitter.
“He (Delgado) will also leave very big shoes to fill, and I’m humbled and honored that members of this community are calling on me to run,” Ryan said.
“My entire life has been oriented around service, and so I’m now seriously considering how best to continue serving my community and constituents. After last night’s devastating news, it’s clear that now more than ever we need champions in Congress who’ll protect fundamental rights and freedom and fight back against Washington extremism. So, stay tuned.”
Ryan previously campaigned for the 19th Congressional seat but lost the 2018 primary.
“I’ve never felt more strongly about the need for leaders of character to step up and fight for our democracy and our values, so trust that I will be making a decision very soon,” Ryan said Friday.
State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-Saugerties, who many had speculated would make a bid for the seat, said Friday she would not run for Congress.
“For the strength of our party and the future we need here in New York state, I have decided to stay in the Senate and run for reelection, however the lines may look,” Hinchey said. “We need representation in Albany fighting against the partisan rhetoric and blatant attacks on the rights we hold so dear.”
Columbia County Democratic Party Chairman Sam Hodge said he does not think the district will be won by a Republican.
“This is a Democratic district with people who are looking for solutions and the Republican party doesn’t have them,” Hodge said. “So, when voters go to the ballot, they’re going to be looking for a candidate who is pragmatic, who wants to be a problem-solver. That’s what Pat Ryan has done as county executive.”
Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson said he has been asked about the possibility of running for the 19th Congressional seat.
Hochul said the Committee on Vacancies approved Delgado on Tuesday to run on the ballot with Hochul in November. The exact date of his resignation from the House is unknown, but she has said it will be sometime in May.
Watertown Daily Times reporter Ben Beagle contributed to this story.