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Road to the Lieutenant Governor's Office Runs Through the Barrios of New York


 

(l-r) Ana Maria Archila, Antonio Delgado, Diana Reyna


Until results are officially released, who will win an election is uncertain. But right now, with less than a week until election night in this year’s statewide primaries, one thing is quite certain: the next Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor will have a Latino name. And yes, that even includes Antonio Delgado, whose racial and ethnic identity has been the subject of much debate.

The fact that Delgado, Ana Maria Archila, and Diana Reyna are the three Democratic candidates on the ballot for Lieutenant Governor speaks to the growing importance of Latinos in state politics. Indeed, with Latinos now forming almost 20% of all registered Democratic voters statewide, the Latino vote is not one to take for granted.

Governor Hochul evidently knows this, as she and the State Democratic Party recently launched the Nueva York Initiative. Jumaane Williams’ campaign and the New York Working Families Party as a key organizational engine were instrumental in launching Archila’s candidacy. And Tom Suozzi asked Reyna to be his running-mate.

Having two Latinas as Lieutenant Governor candidates can be a boon for Latino voting participation. Several studies have shown that having a Latino at the top of the ballot does improve voting participation among the group. This was certainly the case in New York City when Fernando Ferrer became the first Latino to win the mayoral nomination of a major political party here. Latino voting participation increased by almost 40% in many of the Latino-majority election districts in his 2005 bid for Gracie Mansion. While the Lieutenant Governor race is not at the top of the ballot, it is right below the top, and can still garner enough attention to make some voters pay attention.

Can the candidacies of Archila, Delgado, and Reyna help increase Latino voter turnout across the city and state?

It depends. Boosting Latino turnout encompasses a number of things, like investing precious candidate time and financial resources in Latino neighborhoods, speaking to voters on the ground and through the airwaves.

It means meeting Latinos where they are. Paying lip-service will no longer work. In recent elections, we have seen numerous Latinos abandon their loyalty to the Democratic Party. Latino voters pay attention. And many more are going to the polls.

It also means investing money in Spanish-language TV and radio stations, and local papers. To be sure, voters of  all ethnicities expect and respond positively to personal interactions with candidates. That is especially the case with Latinos, who expect candidates to be uno de ellos/ellas (“one of us”). Latinos enjoy the interaction and the excitement that campaigns generate and want the issues they care about dealt with, from small businesses to education to public safety to affordable housing and more.

So far, the potential for excitement is largely missing in Latino communities across the city and state. With just under a week to go before primary election day, the three lieutenant governor candidates have a lot of work to do to generate more buzz among Latinos.

It appears that so far only Delgado has bought advertisements on the major Spanish-language TV stations. Naturally, paying for pricey commercials entails having a large campaign kitty. Delgado was able to transfer millions of dollars from his congressional campaign account and, as the governor’s running-mate and current lieutenant governor, will have the most money of the three candidates and thus more resources than others to do so.

Of the three, Archila has the most endorsements from Latino elected officials, with 14. Delgado and Reyna each have four. Voters are not entirely swayed by endorsements, but endorsements can matter and can mean access to fundraising sources and personnel to launch on-the-ground operations to speak directly to voters.

Such endorsements will be pivotal, especially for Archila. Up to now, Archila seems to be running a somewhat similar campaign to Dianne Morales’ in last year’s mayoral primary, in that she appears focused on establishing and fortifying her progressive base as opposed to focusing on appealing to Latinos. While this progressive base has made possible the creation of a much-needed multi-racial coalition, the coalition is mostly driven by a political philosophy not embraced by a good chunk of the Latino Democratic primary electorate, which is more moderate. Moreover, the majority of likely Latino primary voters are 55 years of age and over, and many of these voters tend to be less progressive than younger ones.

Nevertheless, Archila’s story is one that can certainly appeal to a broad spectrum of Latino voters. Like many Latinos across the Empire State, Archila immigrated to the United States in her youth — she came from Colombia when she was 17 years old. Undeterred by the challenges immigrants face on a daily basis, she dedicated her life to advocacy, co-founding Make the Road New York, a pivotal group doing important immigrants rights work across the state, and launching efforts to combat economic and racial injustice. Archila became nationally known for directly confronting U.S. Senator Jeff Flake during the Supreme Court nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh. 

Diana Reyna also has a narrative that can appeal to many Latinos. The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Reyna became the first Dominican woman to be elected to a government position in the state of New York when she ascended to the New York City Council. She then became a deputy borough president under then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Yet, Reyna’s lack of financial resources and her inability to identify and energize a natural base for her candidacy will likely lead her to defeat.

In the end, the Lieutenant Governor primary race will probably come down to Archila and Delgado. Delgado is formidable, not because he has a Latino surname, but because of his campaign war chest, his access to the state Democratic Party apparatus and many allies in organized labor, and by virtue of currently holding the position, albeit one he has not held for much time, which comes with additional support from Governor Hochul.

Delgado’s success or defeat may be determined by Hochul’s coattails, or lack thereof. And when it comes to the Latino vote in New York, he will have a lot of work to do, particularly since 75% of the Latino vote will come from New York City. Delgado is from upstate and is largely an unknown entity, especially among Latinos, in New York City.

Does the road to Albany cross through the Latino barrios of New York? Perhaps. One thing is certain—the next Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor will have a name that is familiar in those same barrios.

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Eli Valentin is a political analyst and author of the forthcoming book, Reinhold Niebuhr: A Political Life. On Twitter @EliValentinNY.

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