Viva Delgado

Former Rep. Antonio Delgado, more a TV fixture of late than during his entire 42-month term in congress, may not be a mortal lock for lieutenant governor in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary, but he has to be the odds-on favorite.

I don’t predict this out of any particular admiration of Delgado as congressman or as a homer pulling for the local guy, but because he has everything going his way.

Most important is that Delgado is the incumbent lieutenant governor, appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul after her first choice for running mate ran afoul of the law. Holding the office is at least half the battle and he only needs around 40 percent in a three-way race.

Then there’s Delgado’s opponents for the Democratic nomination, a pair of activist Latinas from New York City. One might pose a problem. Splitting the Latin vote all but guarantees Delgado’s election. No wonder Delgado has been identifying as Latino these days.

Just to be on the safe side, according to the New York Times, Delgado spent something like $4 million on TV ads as of the end of May, Gotham-based for the most part, since securing Hochul’s endorsement several weeks ago.

From my TV set, Delgado comes across as stilted and awkward, uncomfortable in his new role as Kathy’s caddy.  A candidate debate on Spectrum over the weekend only served to reinforce that perception.

Diana Reyna, a former city council member from Brooklyn/Queens, and Sara Maria Archilla gave crisp, informed answers to a number of questions on serious issues from moderators while Delgado talked in generalities. The Latina pair, obviously far to the left, “tax the rich,” etc.  nevertheless, offered substantive ideas and solutions.

NOTES – One of the more awkward questions for Harvard-educated former congressman was when a moderator asked the candidates that if elected would they differ with the governor. Archilla and Reyna were all over that one. Delgado looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

To update some Democrats who might not know this, lieutenant governors are nominated and elected to separate office from the governor. It is not like U.S. president and vice president who run as a team.

The two women pledged to be “people advocate” if elected. Delgado said he’d be independent but didn’t sound like much of an advocate Clearly, he is not a man to bite the hand that fed him.

But the idea of an independent, activist lieutenant governor is out there, as opposed to the hand -shaking powerless second bananas who have held this obscure office in recent years. It will be Delgado’s choice, if he wins, to empower the position if only as a public podium.  

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ONTO THE 103rd – When I find myself in times of trouble mother Mary speaks to me, speaking words of wisdom. But my mother Mary died 25 years ago, leaving me to my own ends.

And so, let us delve into the hottest race in town, the contest for assembly in the 103rd Ulster-Dutchess district currently represented by Kevin Cahill of Kingston. Cahill, 66, is being seriously challenged for the first time since 1994, by Sarahana Shrestha, 41, of Esopus.

Cahill may not like to read this, but by serious, I mean serious. Shrestha, who enrolled as a Democrat only two years ago, has skipped all the rungs in the ladder and gone right for the top and the jugular.  She has raised sufficient funds to establish herself as a credible candidate and, with a lot of help from her Democratic Socialists of America, has launched a ground game not seen since Grant took Richmond.

It is also one of the most negative campaigns seen in these parts since an unknown insurance salesman named John Guerin unseated freshman assemblyman Cahill some 28 years ago. To put that in perspective, Shrestha was a teenager living in her native Nepal when Cahill lost that race.  He returned to the assembly in 1998.

Cahill, so as not to appear the big bad white guy abusing the helpless immigrant, has held his fire as Shrestha has issued volley after volley attacking his honesty, integrity and effectiveness in office.

In fact, it’s textbook politics. Sometimes the only way to bring down an entrenched incumbent is to go negative. Cahill, who wasn’t nearly the force he is today, learned that bitter lesson against Guerin.

But let us get down to cases.

Sarahana, as she is more popularly known, is something of an anarchist, albeit one who proudly wears the socialist label. She is avowedly anti-establishment. We need to burn down the village in order to save it, as they used to say in the Vietnam War. I liked Hillary’s take on villages better.

Ironically, Cahill started out an anti-establishment type and now he’s part of it.

In some ways, Cahill has made Sarahana’s job easier. For instance, she continually condemns him for taking large donations from industries like those cursed utilities and insurance companies, as chairman of assembly committees with oversight jurisdiction. Where she gets her dough seems to be lost in the smoke generated by her barrages.

Cahill’s answer, quite simply, is prove it. “There’s a lot of people who may have thought they would be getting something from me for their donations, but did not,” he said at the only face-to face appearance by the candidates in Saugerties last month.

Nonetheless, the optics stink and the challenger is taking full advantage.

She is also playing to advantage the perilous times we live in and the fact that establishment types have done little or nothing to address issues of housing, homelessness, inflation and under-performing schools. Except, maybe, to throw more money at them. Cahill knows that scared people are more inclined to accept a different approach.

In any event, Cahill’s response is that public financing of senate and assembly elections goes into effect in 2024, so in effect, why worry about optics? He won’t like it, but that’s how (pun alert) I see it.

As an enrolled Democrat for about 11 years now, I plan to stick with the devil I know at next week’s primary.

I can vote for a hard-charging challenger who has lived in this community for what amounts to a cup of coffee or for an established, well-connected incumbent who has brought untold millions of state aid to his district, is on a first-name basis with anybody who counts in Albany and has excelled in constituent services.

Sarahana has one answer for any problem: let the government pay for it. Where or how the government is expected to finance these untold billions, she doesn’t say. Cahill is hardly averse to tax and spend policies, but at least he votes for what appears to be balanced state budgets.

Cahill turns 67 the weekend before the general election. Maxed out in the state pension system after all these years, he may be considering a rocking chair and some comfortable slippers. If Sarahana gets close, and that’s possible, he may also want to give some thought to some of the issues she has raised, absent the nasty negatives.