Congressional hopeful Antonio Delgado leaned against a buffet table as he responded to questions, inquiries and half-thoughts of a gaggle of senior-skewed potential supporters huddled around him in a wing of the Apollo Saugerties Diner. It was the third stop on Delgado’s “diner tour” that had already brought the Democratic candidate for New York’s 19th congressional district to Taghkanic in Columbia County and Monticello in Sullivan County the day before.
“I’m for those values I was raised with: compassion, understanding, sympathy and shared prosperity,” said Delgado, more than once.
In policy terms, according to the candidate, this means implementing universal healthcare; fighting for better school funding, including putting universal pre-k and early education programs in place, teaching our children civics, the arts and “everything that a child needs to become a full-blown citizen”; tackling pervasive student loan debt; calling on corporations to shoulder a larger tax load; and investing in green energy and infrastructure, because “who’s going to want to do business in a community without reliable cell service or broadband access?”
According to Delgado, our country has reached a backwards state of existence — he went as far as to use the word “chaos” — and that these values that the 41-year-old is trying to imprint on his young twin boys are not being adhered to by politicians.
“The economy has doubled, but wages have gone absolutely nowhere. The cost of housing, the cost of education, all of that has gone up, meanwhile, wages have gone nowhere,” he said. “We continue to be bamboozled by this concept of trickle-down economics, this theory that somehow opportunities will trickle down to the masses. But nothing with the word ‘trickle’ in it can be just or fair. I don’t want to buy into this trickle-down nonsense anymore.”
A few nodded as he explained that the “investment has to come from the bottom up”: that, after investing in schools, infrastructure and communities, those that are lifted will buy goods and services, thereby creating the demand the powers the economy.
Delgado is the only candidate in the race who’s put out a hip-hop album. Under the stage name “AD the Voice,” Delgado wrote: “I have a gift between my ears” and it’s “not in my essence to submit” in his song “U Scared.” Before his short-lived, single-album rap career, Delgado applied that “gift” to his studies at Colgate, where he graduated with high honors, earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford and met his Woodstock-native wife, Lacey, during law school at Harvard. His interlude as an M.C. came next when, from 2005-09, he lived in Los Angeles, performing and founding a record label, Statik Entertainment. Ultimately, he landed a gig at big-time New York City law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
At the diner, Delgado paid special attention to a 75-year-old supporter in a Colgate hat. “I came here tonight because I’ve been a registered Democrat all my life, but I’ve voted in both directions,” said the man. “I voted for Trump last time, I voted for Obama twice before that. My reasons were my reasons.”
He went on to bemoan the disenfranchisement of Democrats in the wake of President Trump’s inauguration.
“People are looking at our government and they’re saying ‘this thing is broken,'” said Delgado. “So you vote for Obama in 2008 — first African American, middle name Hussein, because you’re trying to mix it up…But on the ground, the wage stagnation, the income inequality, those structural impediments did not change…You go through eight years of class and dignity and civility…you can’t find a scandal, and then you say ‘what happened? Nothing.’ For most folks that was not meaningful. They check out, or they say ‘that didn’t work, let’s try the other option here — the guy that’s full of scandals and doesn’t watch what he says.’ I’m not personally saying that I totally understand, but I get the psychology.”
Deglado spoke of his efforts to reach out to voters who may, at first glance, seem lost to Democrats. He relayed a story that took place at a bagel festival in Sullivan County in which a man lauded Donald Trump for creating jobs and said that many Obamacare recipients have “gold teeth and nice cars.” Delgado described civilly finding common ground with the man — that for some, affordable healthcare is a matter of life and death — and shook his hand. Later, in a crowded room, the man tracked him down and told him to “keep fighting the good fight.”
“I have a profound belief that people have trouble turning their back on love and genuineness,” Delgado said. “It’s like a dog that can smell fear — a dog knows what fear is. People know when genuineness is, and it’s hard to say ‘nah, get out of here with that nonsense.’ Now, I can’t have that [type] of conversation with everyone in the district, but what we’re trying to do with my campaign… it’s about trying to capture that energy and make sure that people walk away feeling it somehow, some way.”