hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


News & Issues Election 2018 July 2018


It’s Delgado vs. Faso, Cobb vs. Stefanik

Democrats settle crowded primaries in two eastern New York House districts




Democratic voters have chosen Antonio Delgado and Tedra L. Cobb to challenge Republican incumbents John Faso and Elise Stefanik this fall in New York’s 19th and 21st congressional districts.

The results of a June 26 election settled a pair of unusually crowded primary ballots and set the stage for potentially spirited general election campaigns in the two House districts, which together extend along New York’s eastern edge from the Canadian border to the outer suburbs of New York City.

In the 19th district, Delgado, a lawyer who lives in Rhinebeck (Dutchess County), prevailed with 22 percent of the vote in a seven-candidate field and captured about 1,400 more votes than second-place finisher Gareth Rhodes, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Delgado finished first in four of the 11 counties in the district, which stretches from Rensselaer and Columbia counties south and west across the Catskills to the Pennsylvania border and nearly to Binghamton.

In the 21st district, Cobb, a former St. Lawrence County legislator, enjoyed a more lopsided primary victory, capturing 56 percent of the vote in a five-candidate field – meaning she garnered more votes than the other four candidates combined. Cobb received at least 8,000 more votes than second-place finisher Dylan Ratigan, best known for his role as host of a television show on MSNBC.

Cobb carried 11 of the 12 counties in the 21st district, which extends from Washington and northern Saratoga counties north to the Canadian border and west to Lake Ontario.

Both districts have the potential to become competitive in a year when polls suggest Democratic-leaning voters are highly motivated to turn out, spurred by outrage over President Trump’s policies and behavior. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats across the nation to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, and independent political analysts now say a gain of that magnitude is likely, although by no means guaranteed.

Although absentee ballots had yet to be tallied as this issue headed to press, it appears that the June primary attracted a turnout of at least 26 percent of Democratic voters across the 19th district. That number may seem low in absolute terms, but it’s nearly double the turnout for the 2016 Democratic primary in the district – and more than triple the turnout for the 2012 primary. Both of the earlier primaries were two-candidate races.

In the 21st district, more than 16 percent of Democratic voters cast ballots in the June 26 primary. This was the first time there had been a Democratic primary in the district since a court redrew New York’s congressional map after the 2010 census.


Issues for the fall
With the primaries now settled, expect a fall campaign in which the issues of health care, immigration, gun violence and environmental protection could figure prominently.

Both Faso, who’s seeking a second term, and Stefanik, who’s seeking a third, have faced a drumbeat of criticism since the spring of 2017, when they provided a pair of crucial votes in favor of a Republican bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
The GOP bill, which passed the House by a 217-213 vote but later died in the Senate, would have cut Medicaid funding by $834 billion over 10 years and also slashed subsidies for people who buy private insurance through the state-run marketplaces created by Obamacare. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the House bill would have increased the number of uninsured people by 23 million over the next decade.

Cobb has characterized Stefanik’s health care vote as a defining issue and says it’s what prompted her to run. She contends the House bill would have cut health care jobs, forced rural hospitals to close and left an additional 83,000 people in the 21st district without health insurance.

Faso has defended the Republicans’ health care vote by saying the GOP plan would have lowered premiums for many people buying private insurance. Many independent analysts agreed this would be true, particularly for those whose incomes are too high to qualify for subsidized coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. But the CBO analysis also concluded that under the Republican plan, older and sicker patients in many states could have faced sharply higher premiums and “might not be able to purchase coverage at all.”

With the primary races now settled, both Faso and Stefanik quickly went on the attack against their newly minted opponents. Within 24 hours after the polls closed, the Stefanik camp released a 15-second online video dubbing Cobb “Taxin’ Tedra” and claiming she voted more than 20 times to raise various local taxes in her eight years as a county legislator.

Faso issued a statement predicting the coming campaign would offer voters “a crystal clear choice” and pointedly noting that in November, Delgado “will cast his first-ever general election vote for Congress in our district.” (The 2014 and 2016 Democratic candidates in the district, Sean Eldridge and Zephyr Teachout, both were dogged by questions about their tenuous ties to the district.)
Delgado, 41, grew up in Schenectady, which is just outside the district’s northern boundary, but only recently returned to the area. Before joining the race for Congress, he worked at the Manhattan office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a major international law firm that’s known for its large lobbying operation. (He says he was a litigator, not a lobbyist.)

Delgado’s wife, Lacey, is from Woodstock, and the couple were married in 2011 in Catskill. At the beginning of last year, they bought a house in Rhinebeck and moved there. Before that, they had lived in New Jersey.

Faso, 65, is also a lawyer by training and has lived in Kinderhook for more than 30 years. He was a state assemblyman for 15 years, stepping down in 2002 to mount unsuccessful campaigns for state comptroller and, later, governor. He then worked for a large lobbying firm in Albany before running for Congress two years ago.