Three Democrats are in a competitive race for lieutenant governor

The gubernatorial race draws the most attention during the June 28 primary for statewide elected offices, where early voting takes place.

But on the Democratic side, there is also a contest over who will be the state’s next lieutenant governor. This position can be important.

Twice in the past 15 years, a lieutenant governor of New York has found himself suddenly elevated to the rank of governor. First, David Paterson took over when Eliot Spitzer quit 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.

Hochul, who is seeking election to a full term, has chosen Delgado, a former congresswoman from the Hudson Valley, as her running mate.

Delgado is actually a late replacement for Hochul’s original pick, Brian Benjamin.

Benjamin was appointed to the position last September but resigned in April after being charged with federal corruption.

Delgado, who is of African American and Cape Verdean descent, grew up in Schenectady. He attended Oxford University in England on a Rhodes Scholarship, graduated from Harvard Law School, and lived and worked in New York for a time with his wife and twins 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 am thrilled to be a partner with you and to build a better future for New York,” Delgado said on May 3.

In a mid-June press conference with Hochul, Delgado said he was still looking for direction and could not yet say what his portfolio might be. He said he could be useful as a liaison with the federal government for projects.

“Projects that talk about 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,” he said.

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

Archila is seeking the job of running mate for New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Archila, a Colombian American activist and progressive, first gained attention when she confronted former Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona in an elevator at the United States Capitol during the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. The event went viral and progressive icon Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez invited Archila to attend the 2019 State of the Union address.

Archila is supported by many grassroots progressive groups and is the candidate of the left-wing Working Families Party. She believes the role of Lieutenant Governor should be more active than it always has been.

She said if elected she would be a “real force in Albany” and not spend her time “just cutting ribbons”.

“The way lieutenant governors have embodied this role is not helpful, just waiting for assignments from the governor,” Archila said during a Spectrum News panel. “The Lieutenant Governor is directly elected by the people.”

Archila said that because of this, the power and mandate of the position derives from the voters, and the lieutenant governor should “partner” with advocacy groups and state legislators to advance their agenda.

The third candidate for lieutenant governor, Diana Reyna, is running mate for Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi.

Reyna, a former New York City Council member and Vice President of the Borough of Brooklyn, was the first Dominican American woman elected to public office in New York State.

Like Suozzi, Reyna identifies as a “common sense” Democrat with more moderate views than the mainstream Democratic Party. Both pointed to rising crime rates and spoke out against the 2019 state bail reform laws, which ended many forms of cash bail. She also expressed concerns about high property taxes.

“As common-sense Democrats, we’re not going to follow the norm,” Reyna said when she was chosen by Suozzi in February. “It’s about standing outside of what the Democratic Party is so we can 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 is possible that Hochul, the favorite, ends up with Archila or Reyna as running mate. The two candidates have different views of Hochul on many topics.

The governor, when asked about the possibility by reporters, said she wasn’t even considering it at the moment.

“I don’t speculate,” Hochul said on June 20. “Antonio will be the next Lieutenant Governor of New York State.”

There is no Republican primary for lieutenant governor. The GOP, in its nominating convention, chose Alison Esposito, Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin’s running mate. She presents herself unopposed.

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