After an exhausting 17-month slog through a crowded primary field, Antonio Delgado coasted to a decisive election night victory on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for New York’s 19th Congressional District.
By Wednesday, with all districts reporting, Delgado emerged with 7,690 votes, or 22 percent of the total cast in the seven candidate race. Delgado’s closest competitors, former Andrew Cuomo press aide Gareth Rhodes and former Army officer and security technology entrepreneur Pat Ryan came in near evenly, a full four percentage points behind Delgado with 6,242 and 6,194 votes respectively. Rounding out the field were Jeff Beals with 4,608 votes, Brian Flynn, also with 4,608, Dave Clegg with 3,873 and Erin Collier with 1,700.
At Rough Draft bookstore and bar on Crown Street in Uptown Kingston, where Delgado held a primary night results party, the celebration started early. Twenty minutes after polls closed, a few hundred votes from Delaware and Schoharie counties showed Delgado with 29 percent of total. Cheers broke out; moments later, the candidate and his wife, Lacey, who had been watching the results come in at another location, showed up. The smiling couple took a lap around the crowded room greeting supporters and thanking staff. “We really left it all out there,” said campaign communications director Brendan Welch.
Delgado’s lead would narrow throughout the night, but not enough to place the outcome in real doubt. “It’s nice to be on a winning campaign, isn’t it?” asked one young staffer to another at the Delgado party. Well into Wednesday morning, Delgado was still ebulliently bouncing from person to person, embracing them and flashing his smile.
At Ryan’s results party among the brew kettles at Keegan Ales, the mood was turning grim as vote totals began rolling in from the 11-county district’s Democratic heartland of Ulster. Nearby, at The Anchor, Clegg, a Kingston-based attorney who was counting on a long record of community service to put him over the top, paid tribute to his supporters.
“Our voters were really steadfast,” said Clegg, who estimated that the campaign hit 90 percent of its get-out-the-vote canvassing goals. “Everybody in this room is a good person.”
Just before 3 a.m., Rhodes issued a statement acknowledging Delgado’s victory and calling for the defeat of Republican incumbent John Faso in November’s general election.
“[Our] efforts are not a loss because our party has nominated a candidate, Antonio Delgado, who will over the next four and a half months benefit from what all of us candidates have done for the past year — every diner stop, firehouse visit and town hall meeting — has helped build the momentum we need for Antonio to repeal and replace John Faso this fall,” Rhodes wrote.
But such unifying sentiments were not on display in Woodstock, where Jeff Beals addressed a crowd of supporters outside the Station Bar and Curio. Beals, a foreign service officer turned schoolteacher, had run a Bernie Sanders-style campaign that at times seemed aimed as much at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as Faso or his Democratic rivals. While Beals’ watch party took place at the Station, Beals and a core group of staffers (and Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, author of recent pieces on the race that prominently featured Beals) took in the results at headquarters just up the street. Beals was resigned, and in good spirits, commenting on the surreal feeling of seeing that thousands of voters across the state had voted for him. As the group made their way back to the Station, Taibbi and Beals commiserated over the upshot of the night: in the end, money talked.
“My message is the same thing that it was before,” said Beals in a hoarse voice. “This election is bigger than John Faso. This election is bigger than Republican-Democrat. This is about the working people of America who are being given the shaft in a rigged economy and being denied the American dream that we know is so possible…We’re a movement that is bigger than any one election and that continues.”
Delgado, a 41-year-old former Rhodes Scholar who until recently worked as an attorney at the high-profile corporate law firm Akin Gump, was the first candidate to enter the race back in February 2017 and has consistently led the field in fundraising. He will go up against Faso, a longtime politician, lobbyist and former state Assembly minority leader who is running for his second term in Congress.
In a pair of tweets send out shortly after midnight, Faso telegraphed his line of attack for the general election. In the first tweet, Faso congratulated Delgado before predicting that voters would reject him for being a newcomer to the district. In 2014 and 2016 Democratic nominees Sean Eldridge and Zephyr Teachout were mauled relentlessly as carpetbaggers in the campaign leading up to their defeat. Lacey Delgado is a Woodstock native, but Antonio was born in Schenectady. The couple lived in Montclair, N.J. before buying a house in Rhinebeck shortly before Delgado announced his candidacy.
“He will soon learn, as the last two Democratic candidates for Congress before him, that our neighbors do not look kindly upon candidates who have just moved into our district and presume to represent us,” Faso tweeted.
In a second Tweet, Faso wrote, “My opponent is essentially for open borders and favors government-run healthcare, which would raise taxes and jeopardize Medicare.”
In his own election night statement, Delgado congratulated his opponents for a “tough, good natured campaign” and promised to “restore accountability to our representation.”
“Tonight, we have taken the first step towards restoring dignity and integrity to our representation in New York 19,” Delgado wrote. “The people have spoken loudly and clearly; more than ideology, more than identity, more than class or background, we can all stand tall behind the unifying principles that our country was founded upon. Freedom, justice equality and opportunity for all.”