The three Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor met for a televised debate Wednesday night, where they were hit with opening questions that played on the same theme.
Are you ready to be governor?
It’s a reasonable hypothetical for the candidates – Lt. gov. Antonio Delgado and challengers Ana Maria Archila and Diana Reyna – considering New York governors have resigned twice in the past 14 years, abruptly elevating their no. 2 to the top role.
Spectrum News co-moderators Errol Louis and Susan Arbetter led a policy focused, 90-minute debate, quizzing the Democrats about everything from gun control, to cryptocurrency, to criminal justice reform. But they led by asking the candidates about how they can ensure them ‘re involved in Albany budgeting, in part to make sure they’re prepared if the governor were to step down.
“The fact of the matter is I bring to bear a certain level of experience, a certain record,” said Delgado, a former congressman who represented the Hudson Valley. “And when I come into this position, the expectation is I will be an active partner.”
Delgado has spent three weeks in the lieutenant governor’s office, becoming Gov. Kathy Hochul’s second no. 2 after her first pick – now-former Lt. gov. Brian Benjamin – resigned in April amid a bribery scandal.
He’s running alongside Hochul for a full term, while Archila is running with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Reyna with Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi. New York’s election system requires the governor and lieutenant governor candidate to run in separate party primaries before the winners are joined as a single ticket for the general election.
Early in the debate, Archila spoke of her desire to inject a level of independence into the lieutenant governor’s office, saying the state’s no. 2 shouldn’t simply be “in the background” and “cutting ribbons.”
“As long as I’ve been organizing, the governors have been an obstacle to progress for the communities that I fight for,” said Archila, an activist from Brooklyn who co-founded the immigrant-rights group Make the Road NY. “Having a lieutenant governor that is just standing quietly in the background does not help anyone.”
Reyna, also of Brooklyn, touted her 12 years in the New York City Council, including her experience on the body’s budget negotiating team. She also featured her time in the Brooklyn borough president’s office, where she was a deputy under now-New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
“I’m the only lieutenant governor candidate who has had executive governor experience,” she said.
The candidates largely stuck to the issues, and only occasionally directed barbs at one another.
One of those times came when Delgado was asked about his support from the cryptocurrency industry. A super PAC backed by Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has transferred $1 million to a state account and has begun spending in support of Delgado’s campaign, according to state campaign finance records. The transfer of the funds was first reported last week by Politico New York.
Delgado said he is not familiar with Bankman-Fried. And he said Hochul should consider signing a pending bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on cryptocurrency mining as fossil fuel plants in New York state.
“I think that the moratorium should be seriously considered, full stop,” Delgado said. “Two, I don’t even know who this crypto billionaire person is.”
Archila took the opportunity to pounce.
“Antonio, you don’t know the person who has spent a million dollars on your campaign?” she said. “You should tell him to stop.”
On the issue of guns, the moderators asked the candidates about the pending Supreme Court case that could make it far easier to get a concealed carry permit in New York state.
Both Archila and Delgado said they would support bringing state lawmakers back to Albany for a special session to pass tougher laws to combat the ruling, it should go against the state. Reyna took a different path, pivoting to the need to tackle illegal guns coming in from other states.
“This ruling is not what I’m focused on,” Reyna said. “I’m focused on the violence that’s taking place here, the iron pipeline issues that we have to resolve, the opportunities to be able to understand that we need leadership.”
The primary is set for June 28th. The winner will run against Alison Esposito, who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.