After a post-primary lull, the congressional race for New York’s 19th district is once again making news.
During the primary campaign, the main concern about eventual nominee Antonio Delgado was that he would, like the last two Democratic nominees, be open to the attack that he was a carpetbagger who moved to the district to run for office. Incumbent Republican John Faso did mention that on the evening of Delgado’s victory, saying “our neighbors do not look kindly upon candidates who have just moved into our district and presume to represent us.”
But the first major back-and-forth came a few weeks later after an article in the New York Post, headlined Rapping Dem challenges Republican for upstate congressional seat, listed some selections from Delgado’s 2006 rap album, including the lines: “I wanna ride with my n—-s see them all get figures/I wanna see a righteous capitalist, if it’s possible for one to exist” and “Dead presidents can’t represent me, not when most of them believe in white supremacy/like spittin’ on my ancestry.”
Faso’s response was swift. “In recent media reports, I was shocked and surprised to learn that Mr. Delgado authored some very troubling and offensive song lyrics,” said Faso in a statement to Ulster Publishing. “The tone and tenor of his lyrics, as reported, are not consistent with the views of most people in our district, nor do they represent a true reflection of our nation. Mr. Delgado’s lyrics paint an ugly and false picture of America.”
Delgado was quick to strike back. In an interview, the Schenectady native who moved to Rhinebeck shortly before announcing his candidacy said Faso’s remarks were part of a divisive and race-baiting strategy to paint him as an “outsider” in the largely white, largely rural congressional district.
“He’s feeding into racial biases that could be conscious or subconscious, that’s the unfortunate reality,” said Delgado, who gave up his hip-hop career to attend Harvard law school and go on to a career in corporate law. “A real leader, with integrity, would know better, would be better than that.”
The New York Times covered the issue yesterday. That article included a quote from Gerald Benjamin, professor and director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz, that proved controversial. From the article:
“Is a guy who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyle and values?” said Mr. Benjamin, a longtime political science professor, adding that he personally did not consider rap music to be “real music.”
“People like us, people in rural New York, we are not people who respond to this part of American culture,” Mr. Benjamin said
The college released a statement later that day, signed by Donald Christian, president, and Tanhena Pacheco Dunn, chief diversity officer, calling the quotes in the article “troubling” and saying they “[raise] the specter of racism and marginalize members of our community, both of which are antithetical to our institutional values of inclusivity and respect…We are disappointed that such language would come from campus leader and ambassador of the College.”
As for what’s next, “[S]ustained dialogue will continue to be part of our work as a campus as we work through free speech rights and manage intent versus impact of diverse views.”
According to the Daily Beast, Benjamin issued a memo to colleagues earlier today apologizing for the remarks.
“I have worked at SUNY New Paltz for fifty years in several capacities, and have a deep attachment to the school and the diverse community we have built here,” he wrote, according to the copy provided to that site. “I am therefore very sorry for any unintended distress caused by my remarks.”
Delgado, after a weekend that included two enthusiastic events in Rhinebeck and New Paltz that have local Democrats fired up, has mostly sat back and watched the controversy play out. Meanwhile, Democrats have seized on Faso’s attacks and Benjamin’s remarks as racist. Tommy Vietor, former Obama staffer and host of the foreign policy podcast Pod Save the World, had this to say:
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) July 18, 2018