With the primary election less than two weeks away, Democratic District 19 candidate Antonio Delgado held a town hall meeting on the SUNY New Paltz Campus on Thursday, Oct. 25.
Delgado received a massive outpour of support from the local community, with over 100 students and local residents in attendance at the Multi-Purpose Room. After addressing the questions, concerns and fanfare from the attendees, Delgado sat down for an interview with The New Paltz Oracle to discuss pressing issues concerning the district.
Max: What do you think is the most pressing issue impacting our district and what is the best way to combat it?
“Well, healthcare. It’s the biggest issue for most folks across the district, whether you’re a Democrat, Independent or Republican. Whether if its the cost of premium, self deductibles, prescription drug costs, rule access… those are all the issues that people are thoughtful about.
“I think opening up medicare to everybody who wants to opt in is a really important step that we can achieve to universalize our healthcare system. I think making sure medicare has negotiating power with ‘big pharma’ is another significant step.”
Max: But when you say “universal healthcare,” you don’t mean a single-payer system, do you?
“Yes, meaning it’s not completely government run. Currently, if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, because of income, disability or virtue of your age, then you are entirely beholden to the profit motive, as dictated within a private insurance marketplace.
“When I say a public option I’m talking about giving folks a choice to keep what they have, but have a public competitor in the marketplace. That public competitor will drive down the overall cost of healthcare.”
Max: Another pressing issue is the accessibility to a higher-education. What do you think is the biggest obstacle preventing increased accessibility?
“I think that the issue is that we stopped prioritizing education and began trending towards privatization. The way in which our government has enabled the private marketplace to dictate the terms of lending, for students seeking higher education, has resulted in access issues for folks with limited means.
“A loan shouldn’t be thought of as a risk that can paralyze their future, it should be thought of as a risk that can enable your future. Thinking through that process, loan forgiveness programs and the whole way we think about education in general needs to be reimagined”
Max: How do you plan on addressing structural racism in our Department of Justice (DOJ), including the school-to-prison pipeline and police brutality?
“I did a lot of work in school-to-prison pipeline advocacy while I was in law school. There are some critical issues we could be addressing, one of which is bail reform. We need to make sure there are properly funded public defenders, regulations within the DOJ that don’t expect law enforcement to seek the highest sentences and doing away with mandatory minimum sentences.
“Racial bias training is also necessary. We are not educating or empowering our law enforcement enough, so that they can do their jobs in a way that not only protects the community they’re serving, but themselves. We are a society with a tough history when it comes to race, so there are a lot of built-in biases. If you’re not taught a way to navigate those, when you’re put in an intense situation, it could actually make you react in a way you wouldn’t normally act, but you just happen to react that way because of a built-in bias.”
Max: Why are you opposed to the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE)?
“The fact is, ICE has been in existence long before the current administration. I think the fact that people are calling for the abolition of it now is more a reflection of the current administration than anything else. Ultimately, asking to abolish ICE doesn’t change the dynamic of the individual that was dictating the mission of the agency, and how it operates.
“Right now one of the primary missions of the agency is to do border patrolling in a way that is too all-encompassing and prioritized. For me, the reform would come from limiting what the mission of the agency actually is and having clearly, defined tasks that would give direction to the law enforcement, who has been set to do that work. I don’t see how doing away with it wouldn’t result in some other agency emerging who will take on whatever the administration dictates.”
Max: A recent report from United Way states that four in 10 families in Ulster County are impoverished. What do you feel is the best strategy to combat poverty in the district?
“One of the things that I think is absolutely paramount to helping someone work their way out of poverty is affordable housing. It’s very hard to find a job if you don’t have a home to anchor yourself. Putting a lot of resources and funding into the U.S. Department of Housing and Development would be one way we could help poverty.”
Max: What is your stance on the recreational legalization of marijuana in New York State?
“I don’t see any issue with the legalization of marijuana, if it is properly regulated for adult use.”
Max: Which of your policies, do you feel, will be most effective in preserving and protecting the local environment?
“We need to defend the role of the EPA, which is currently under attack by the administration. Instead of propping up big oil with tax credits and subsidies, we put those resources into renewable energy. If we do those things and stop building up infrastructure for natural gas, and focus on renewable energy, it would help us transition to a green-based economy.”
Max: How do you respond to criticism from your opponents regarding your previous career as a lawyer at a large corporate firm, Akin Gump? Some people may be skeptical of how genuine your platforms really are.
“Well I don’t take corporate PAC money and I have never been a lobbyist. I’m a litigator by trade. I am an independent actor: I don’t owe anything to anybody, I don’t take money from special interest groups and have no secret agenda.”
Max: Why do you think you are qualified to be a congressperson when you have no prior experience in public office?
“I think there are a lot of individuals who have experience in the political world and have failed to do anything constructive to the folks they’re trying to serve. I think the problem is our ‘political experience,’ particularly on the federal level, has become not so much a badge of honor. I think we have too many career politicians and that they’re too much about partisanship and divisiveness.
“What’s more important is diverse experiences, a fresh perspective and a fresh voice. I have had some diverse experiences in my life and my strength is that I have experienced different opportunities in different realms. Also, I’m a litigator and the business of a legislator is to write the law. As a trained lawyer I certainly have the skill set to do the actual job on a very technical level.”
Max: How can congress address the epidemic of gun-violence in our country while still upholding citizens’ Second Amendment rights?
“The Second Amendment is a right that I will protect. Fundamentally that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address the problem of gun violence. It’s a reality that we’re not addressing. We can’t get anything done because the NRA gun manufacturing lobby has very successfully managed to dictate every bit of this conversation from a political agenda standpoint.
“For me, the way we can address this is to not elect people who get money from the NRA. If we do that, at least we’ll have a chance to have individuals who can respect the Second Amendment right, but also not ignore the fact that we have a problem that need to be addressed, and take the necessary steps.”
Max: In regard to recent action from President Donald Trump, how do you plan to protect transgender decisions and rights?
“Well one, I would be a champion for the Equality Act. I will stand behind that, which would amend the 1964 civil rights amendment and include protections for gender and sexual orientation. That is a critical piece of legislation that is passing right now and I will be on the frontline for that.
“It’s interesting to me that folks in power like to do certain things on certain kinds of issues just to create an environment in which to get folks emotionally charged, rightfully so, but also to begin to create these false wedges. The only way to cut through that is to have vocal leadership that speaks up loudly, boldly and stands out. I will hope to be that kind of congressman.”
Max: What would you do to help the #MeToo movement and the fight to stop people in power from taking advantage of the powerless?
“One thing is looking at the legal ways in which we have to systemically institutionalize gender equity. A lot of what we’re seeing is the result of a historically patriarchal society that has dictated the conversation around access and opportunity to the disadvantage of women. That permeates itself in every sector of life: family, professional, recreational etc. We shouldn’t be heading in the direction of making it harder for young women to state their [Title IX] case, we should at least keep it to where Obama had it set.
“For me it’s about being a champion for women’s rights and understanding what it must be like to be a woman to the extent that I can to wage this fight. And obviously being a father to my sons and raising them appropriately.”