NEW YORK - The race for lieutenant governor is often overlooked but it's an important one to watch. The lieutenant governor is next in line for the top job. And in the past year, New York has had three different people in the lieutenant governor role.
Kathy Hochul was sworn in as governor last August after her predecessor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, resigned numerous scandals.
Hochul first appointed state Sen. Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor. However, Benjamin was arrested in April on federal corruption charges and resigned his post the same day. Hochul's second pick for lieutenant governor, Antonio Delgado, was sworn in about a month ago, accepting the governor's offer to serve as her running mate as they seek a full term.
Delgado's background is unique. A former congressman from the Hudson Valley, a former lawyer, and a former hip hop artist, Delgado looks to bring new opportunities to both upstate and downstate New Yorkers.
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"I decided to run because I looked at my own story of upward mobility and I felt like those stories were not happening as much as they should be," Delgado said. "And now with how divisive the times are, I feel like it's even more important to step up and lead with love and compassion."
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Delgado is being challenged by Ana Maria Archila and Diana Reyna.
Archila is backed by numerous progressive groups including the Working Families Party and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As an activist, Archila is used to pushing for change but this time she wants to reform from within.
"I'm a mother, I'm an immigrant, I am a queer Latina and I am someone who understands how important it is to fight for people," Archila said. "I decided to run for lieutenant governor because I could not accept that our state government was simply going to do the same thing as always — prioritize the demands of billionaires and the real estate industry and tell the rest of New Yorkers to just wait."
Reyna sees herself as a "common sense" Democrat and as a wife to a New York City Police Lieutenant, public safety is one of her top priorities.
Reyna has been in public service for 22 years. She served as a City Council member and was deputy borough president of Brooklyn under now-Mayor Eric Adams.
"Like every parent, we worry and it is one of the things that I tackle most," Reyna said. "It's the safety of our neighborhoods, the safety of our children, the safety of our elders. Understanding that this is about having compassion for people, but knowing how to govern with experience."
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The role of the lieutenant governor has shifted over the years. Despite being a separately elected position, the role has often been seen as ceremonial — someone who travels the state to cut ribbons and meet with local representatives.
But two of the last three elected lieutenant governors have ended up as the governor when their bosses resigned amid scandals.
Reyna said the job is about being ready on Day One with an action plan for the state.
"No one governs alone, everyone must participate," Reyna said. "We have so much work to do in the state of New York. We have to address the wealth gap. We must restore and improve and build on programs that provide affordable housing and economic activity."
Delgado said he sees the lieutenant governor role as a partner to the governor and plans to be a part of closed-door budget negotiations — something that is usually only done by the governor and the two top legislative leaders. He said he plans to use his background in Congress to help strengthen New York's federal partnerships.
"I want to utilize my experience, my relationships and my ability to target communities that have and are in desperate need of investment from infrastructure, to education, to workforce development to small business growth," Delgado said.
Archila said she sees the role of lieutenant governor as someone who brings the needs of the people directly to the governor and the Legislature, whether it be housing, affordability, public safety, and more.
"Everyone's worried about safety," Archila said. "Everybody's worried about the fact that things are getting so expensive. So I am saying Albany should focus on the priorities of working families instead of saying yes to billionaires."
Since the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately in the primary, a split ticket headed into the general election is possible. The last time that happened and the ticket won the general election was in 1982. Then-Lt. Gov. Mario Cuomo was running against Mayor Ed Koch for the nomination for governor. Cuomo won but Koch's lieutenant governor pick beat out Cuomo's by a 3-to-2 margin.