In Split with Hochul, Delgado Calls on Biden to Drop Out

In Split with Hochul, Delgado Calls on Biden to Drop Out

President Joe Biden. Editorial credit: ArChe1993 / Shutterstock.com

By Rebecca C. Lewis | City and State News

In a stunning political split, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado broke with Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday and called on President Joe Biden to end his presidential campaign so that another candidate could become the Democratic presidential nominee.

“I have immense respect and admiration for (Biden’s) deep and abiding commitment to the American people and our founding democratic ideals,” Delgado said in a statement posted to X. “He can add to his legacy, showing his strength and grace, by ending his campaign and making room for a new leader.” Delgado added that “there is no greater threat to our democracy” than Donald Trump and urged Democrats to move ahead with a candidate “capable of re-invigorating and re-energizing” voters.

Delgado’s new stance puts him at odds with his boss, as Hochul remains a steadfast supporter and surrogate of Biden. In the wake of a disastrous debate performance that has prompted serious discussion about the president’s age and ability to continue campaigning, Hochul has offered unwavering support for Biden.

Delgado’s break with Hochul comes only a week after Hochul signaled that she and Delgado work well together, and she intends to keep him on as her running mate when she runs for reelection in 2026. “I have a very strong relationship with my lieutenant governor, we communicate regularly,” Hochul told reporters during an unrelated press conference last week in Manhattan. “He is doing a phenomenal job traveling the state promoting some of his signature initiatives, so I’m very happy with what we’re doing now.”

According to a labor source familiar with the situation, Delgado gave Hochul a heads-up before releasing his statement about Biden. The source said that Hochul is now “furious” with Delgado, though they added it was unclear whether Hochul was upset due to loyalty to Biden or concern that Delgado’s move would reflect poorly on her leadership. “I don’t know what’s worse,” the source said. A second person familiar with the conversation said Hochul did not try to stop Delgado from sharing his opinion after he reached out, despite disagreeing with him. A spokesperson for the Delgado campaign confirmed that he called the governor before releasing the statement.

Jen Goodman, a spokesperson for Hochul’s campaign, reiterated the governor’s support for Biden and made it clear that she disagrees with her No. 2. “Governor Hochul has been clear that President Biden is our nominee and he is in this race to win it,” she said. “While Lieutenant Governor Delgado has the right to voice his opinion, Governor Hochul believes Democrats must come together, move forward as a united party, and focus on defeating Donald Trump in November.”

Stepping out of Hochul’s shadow

It’s not uncommon for governors and their lieutenants to end up with something of an adversarial relationship, but private disagreements rarely spill out into the public eye. The lieutenant governor has little institutional power, with the governor largely defining what the position will be. Generally, that means a lot of travel around the state, ribbon cuttings and other minor appearances to offer an executive presence without the governor actually attending. Lieutenant governors have sometimes chafed at the restrictions of the position, and have more than once gone on to run for governor themselves.

One Democratic consultant suggested that Delgado’s new statement was an example of him looking ahead at his own political future. Another consultant said that 2026 “might be the wild west” and that Delgado is trying to position himself for whatever may happen in two years. Before becoming lieutenant governor, Delgado was a rising star in Congress, representing a swing district in the Hudson Valley. He defeated a Republican incumbent in 2018 to become upstate New York’s first congressional representative of color. He recently launched his own leadership PAC aimed at helping swing district Democrats win House seats – an effort apparently separate from Hochul’s own coordinated campaign with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

In New York, Delgado’s PAC is supporting a number of candidates, including Rep. Pat Ryan, who represents Delgado’s old congressional district; former Rep. Mondaire Jones, who is looking to reclaim his old seat from Republican Rep. Mike Lawler; and Josh Riley, who is challenging Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro. Like Delgado, those swing district Democratic candidates are skeptical of Biden. On Wednesday, Ryan reversed his support for the president and called on him to allow a new nominee to run against Trump. Riley has signaled an openness to a nominee other than Biden, while Jones said only that “if President Biden is the nominee, I’ll be voting for him,” hardly a resounding endorsement.

One Democratic strategist speaking on condition of anonymity said that Delgado’s political break on the issue of Biden demonstrates Hochul’s weakness, a sentiment privately shared by other politicos. The lieutenant governor generally serves as a surrogate for the governor and their agenda, conveying their boss’ message on their behalf. Delgado publicly releasing a statement so at odds with Hochul is highly unusual – and it’s a sharp contrast to the role that Hochul played as former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lieutenant.

Eli Valentin, another Democratic strategist, called Delgado’s move “fascinating” in a text message to City & State, noting how Delgado has differentiated himself from previous lieutenant governors. “It seems he’s taking an approach no other LG has taken in recent memory – he’s his own guy, crafting his own political operation, and now this,” Valentin said.

Former Gov. David Paterson, who served as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said that Hochul’s decision not to try to stop Delgado from voicing his opinion was “noble” and not necessarily a sign of weakness. “I think on something like this, she doesn’t lose much because he had a different opinion, and he doesn’t lose much, because there are too many people that actually agree with him,” Paterson said. He noted that Spitzer would occasionally let him say things that Spitzer didn’t totally agree with. “The real test is if this is damaging to the governor, and I don’t think his taking that position necessarily is,” he said.

This story has been updated with comments from former Gov. David Paterson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.