Ulster’s blue wave: Delgado, Figueroa win as Dems enjoy a good night

As President Donald Trump delivered a midterm election message that leaned heavily on foreboding and fear, first-time congressional candidate Antonio Delgado was urging his supporters to “lean into your love.” On election night, voters across the sprawling 19th Congressional District did just that, electing the 41-year-old former corporate attorney and unseating Republican John Faso.

With unofficial results from all districts, Delgado tallied 132,001 votes to Faso’s 124,408. Delgado’s Ulster plurality was huge — 43,119 to 27,182.

Democrats also celebrated the victory of Juan Figueroa, their candidate in an unusually fierce contest for Ulster County sheriff. Figueroa, a career state trooper and Marine Corps reservist, bested three-term incumbent Paul VanBlarcum 37,945 to 33,814.

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Ulster County Democrats convened at the Senate Garage where former Vice President Joe Biden headlined a get out the vote rally in the waning days of the campaign. In a packed house party atmosphere, officials and grass roots volunteers watched election results on CNN, cheering as Democratic candidates won and letting out a collective groan of dismay at the news that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had beaten back a challenge from progressive favorite Beto O’Rourke. Across the street in a ground floor office suite, Delgado holed up with family members and senior campaign staff as results began trickling in from around the far-flung 11-county district.  Just before 11 p.m. CNN called the race for Delgado. Ten minutes later, County Executive Mike Hein crossed the street and embraced his fellow Democrat with the words “Mr. Congressman.”

Delgado’s victory capped a prolonged campaign that began in February 2017 when he became the first candidate to enter the race, and stretched through a seven-way Democratic primary. Seizing on an issue that’s galvanized Democrats nationwide, Delgado focused on healthcare, accusing his opponents of voting to weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions and to roll back an expanded Medicaid program. Faso, who was elected to Congress in 2016 after a long career in state politics, countered by portraying Delgado, a Schenectady native who moved to Rhinebeck from New Jersey shortly before announcing his candidacy, as a carpetbagger with little understanding of upstate issues. GOP-sponsored super PACs targeted Delgado over his brief career as a rapper in a series of TV and radio ads that that many saw as a dog-whistle to racist sentiment in a largely white district. Delgado alluded to the attacks in his victory speech suggesting that they were a vestige of a vanishing era.

Antonio Delgado (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

“Tonight was about pushing aside those old political tactics, tactics that have gone on for too long and that I think have reached a fever pitch,” said Delgado. “In order to restore our democracy and embrace the vision of the future grounded not in right versus left, but right versus wrong.”

Figueroa beat out VanBlarcum a registered Democrat who won three previous terms with little in the way of serious opposition. The 43-year veteran of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office ran afoul of his party’s base in recent years with a series of controversial statements including, after a 2014 mass shooting, a call for Ulster County pistol permit holders to carry their weapons. VanBlarcum was also criticized for an Oval Office photo op with President Trump at a 2017 event to honor fallen law enforcement officers, and a 2014 episode where he ordered deputies to run warrant checks on people entering the county’s Department of Social Services building.

In the 46th State Senate District, Republican incumbent George Amedore of Rotterdam easily turned aside a challenge from Kingston Democrat Pat Courtney Strong. With all 274 districts reporting, Amedore tallied 64,051 votes to Strong’s 49,124. In Ulster, Strong outpolled Amedore 22,355 to 16,165.

In the 42nd State Senate District, the race between Rosendale Democrat Jen Metzger is the apparent winner over Orange County Republican Annie Rabbitt. With all precincts reporting, Metzger is up by 2,522 votes, collecting 48,074 to Rabbitt’s 45,552.

In the 39th State Senate District, Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis of Orange County defeated Orange County Republican Tom Basile 48,789 to 42,051. He will fill the seat vacated by longtime state Sen. Bill Larkin, who at age 90 is retiring.

In the 103rd Assembly District, Democrat Kevin Cahill, running unopposed, tallied 41,598 votes.

In the 104th Assembly District, Orange County Democrat Jonathan Jacobson beat Orange County Republican Scott Manley 20,293 to 13,578. Jacobson will take the seat once held by Frank Skartados, who died earlier this year.

County Proposition One, which calls for the establishment of an independent commission to draw county legislative districts after every U.S. census, passed overwhelmingly, 49,186 to 15,820.

Additional reporting by Laila Smith

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