This article is part 3 in a series examining how the democratic primary candidates in New York’s 19th Congressional District have served the public — not since they announced their runs, but in their lives as a whole. Dave Clegg, Brian Flynn and Gareth Rhodes were examined in the first article, which can be found here, and Pat Ryan was examined in the second, which can be found here. Now, onto the next candidate looking to unseat Republican John Faso — Antonio Delgado.
When asked who inspires him, Antonio Delgado doesn’t hesitate — he picks Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I think he led with love, and…compassion, empathy (and) seeking the common ground,” he said. “I think our politics has gotten away from that.
“We don’t focus on — ‘how do we learn from each other first’ — we run to the sidelines and don’t really want to engage,” he added.
King taught about the commonality of different people’s goals and working together to achieve them, Delgado said.
“It’s about coming together, it’s about promoting the general welfare and serving the public good, and you can’t do that if you don’t lead with love, you don’t lead with compassion, you don’t have empathy in your heart,” he said.
School and a Swastika
Delgado, 41, was born in Schenectady, NY, where he lived until moving to Hamilton, NY, in 1994 to attend Colgate College, a private institution ranked as one of the top 15 liberal arts colleges in the nation by Newsweek.
Delgado entered the college with the intention of eventually becoming a doctor, but the first-year seminar “What is Real and What is True,” changed his thinking, and Delgado chose instead to pursue a dual academic concentration in philosophy and political science, according to Colgate University News.
Studying philosophy “trains you how to question [things],” Delgado said, and is “a good building block,” allowing one to think critically in everyday life.
Delgado was a Dean’s List student at the school and was involved in various extracurricular activities, including hosting “Race-ing Times” on the school’s television station, which examined issues of race and gender; working as part of the “Dream Team,” which fostered racial harmony through campus events; and was part of the college’s Society of Leaders, according to Colgate University News.
Delgado was also a residential advisor (RA) at the school for three years, according to Colgate University Media Relations Director Daniel DeVries.
The RA position started his path to becoming a “sort of leader on campus,” Delgado said.
A swastika was graffitied on one of the campus buildings while Delgado was at the college, a major incident Delgado said he helped address as an RA.
The incident occurred in September 1998, according to DeVries.
Delgado discussed students’ actions after the swastika was discovered.
“(After the incident) we had gotten together, a group of students, and talked about what we could do collectively to give everybody a positive headspace, because people get angry, and you want to figure out a way to deal with these things constructively, positively, in a way that can be reassuring and encourages real conversations, and makes people feel safe,” Delgado said.
Delgado and others organized a “love circle” in one of the campus quads, which Delgado said was one of the biggest protests the campus had in decades.
“It was remarkable to see the turn-out,” Delgado said. “All the different people from different backgrounds expressing themselves, and really making sure that we understood that we need to lead with love in these situations.”
Delgado was named a Rhodes Scholar his senior year, according to Colgate, one of only 32 students selected nationally for the honor, which takes into consideration students’ achievements in academics and sports (Delgado’s game was basketball), as well as their moral character, leadership, and “truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship,” according to the Rhodes Trust.
Delgado used the Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University in England, where he said he was not engaged in extracurricular activities, but instead chose to immerse himself studying philosophy and political theory.
He graduated from Oxford in 2001, then worked for the next year at Northfield Mt. Herman, a prestigious private high school in western Massachusetts.
Delgado was employed at the school as an assistant director to the Admissions Office from August 2001 until August 2002, according to Northfield Mt. Herman Assistant Director of Communications Pam Lierle. The position entails recruiting qualified students for the school, according to a contemporary job description of the position.
At Northfield Mt. Herman, Delgado was responsible for diversifying the student body, which included doing outreach in poor parts of Newark and New York City, and working with The Oliver Program and A Better Chance, Delgado said — programs funneling talented, economically disadvantaged students to elite private schools.
Delgado next attended Harvard Law School — on student loans this time — where he received his J.D. in 2005.
Then something funny happened. With degrees from three of the most prestigious schools in the world under his belt, Delgado could have easily joined the elite law firm of his choice. Instead, Delgado decided to become a rapper.
AD The Voice and Hip-Hop for Social Change
Delgado called his hip-hop career “part of my narrative when it comes to my commitment to service.”
Delgado’s interest in rap began in college and increased during his time in England and Harvard. While working at a law firm in LA between his second and third years of law school, he partnered with hip-hop producer Tommy “TK” Kim, a fellow Colgate alum, and started recording tracks at Spitshine Studios, according to Music Dish.
Under the pseudonym “AD The Voice,” Delgado was able to press 7,000 copies of a promotional CD before he graduated, according to Music Dish.
With TK, he formed STATiK Entertainment, and released the 18-track album “Painfully Free” (parts of which are still available on Spotify) in late 2007.
In a 2007 interview with The Hip Hop Cosign, Delgado called his approach to hip-hop “a non-traditional method for pursuing social justice.”
“I tried the sensible path toward making change, but it was clear after my first year at Harvard Law, that our system of laws might not be capable of facilitating the sort of change,” according to the interview. “…Hip Hop culture, like the Church during the Civil Rights Movement, has the potential to function as an informal educational system, and a political space for radical social change. It speaks for the outcasts of society — the single mother, incarcerated father, and abandoned child — those the elite use as a scapegoat when the American dream fails for poor and lower-middle class people.”
“Painfully Free” is overtly political, criticizing the Iraq War, American imperialism, and racially based economic disparity, though it also contains traditional rap braggadocio.
On the track “Draped in Flags,” Delgado denounces the Iraq War, skewing the Bush administration’s shifting justifications for invading the country, elegizing American soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed in the war, and slamming the fossil fuel industry for profiting off the bloodshed.
Though the album never broke through, Delgado ties his years with hip-hop into the greater narrative of what he wants to accomplish in life.
“A large part of my thinking when I did music was about trying to figure out creative ways to reach young people to try to get them civically engaged…[hip-hop] was about making sure that I used the experience and the education that I was fortunate enough to receive [to] figure out ways to help people from under-served communities,” he said.
Delgado The Lawyer
Delgado joined the international law and lobbying firm Akin Gump in 2011.
Akin Gump had more than 850 attorneys in 20 offices as of 2017 and was the 36th highest-grossing law firm in the world, according to Law.com. It lobbied on behalf of hundreds of clients in 2017, including Bain Capital, Amazon, Pfizer, Monsanto, National Grid, UPS, and Volkswagen Group of America, according to U.S. House of Representatives lobbying disclosures.
Though Akin Gump is one of the biggest lobbying firms in the country, Delgado appears to have only worked on the law side of the firm. He never did any lobbying in the U.S. Senate, House, or in New York state, according to lobbying disclosures from the institutions.
Delgado earned about $330,000 at the firm in 2016, according to his financial disclosure form.
A major case of Delgado’s at the firm involved challenging an Indiana law forcing “Racinos” (racetrack-casinos) to pay taxes on income that was already legally allotted by the state government to various state funds. Delgado and other attorneys won the case, the judge ruling the law amounted to double taxation, according to the decision.
Delgado said he also did pro-bono work while at the law firm, often with the re-sentencing of those given life bids for crimes they committed as juveniles. A Supreme Court decision deemed it unconstitutional to give life sentences to youthful offenders without considering mitigating circumstances, such as their home environment, and those given life under the law had to be re-sentenced to lighter terms, Delgado said.
He was paid for the pro-bono work — Akin Gump does not earn money from pro-bono clients, but the firm considers the work billable, and attorneys are paid by the firm to undertake such cases, he said.
Delgado moved to the 19th District in early 2017. He bought a home with his wife, Lacey Schwartz Delgado, in the Village of Rhinebeck valued at $539,500, according to Dutchess County Property Tax Rolls.
When asked if he was currently involved in any charitable organizations, Delgado said most of his time is spent either trying to secure the NY-19 nomination or raising his two sons, but said he was a member of the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee, a role he said he takes “very seriously.”
He joined the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee along with his wife about a year ago, filling two vacant positions as interim members, said Rhinebeck Democratic Committee Chair Warren Smith. The couple was voted in as full members of the committee by the Dutchess County Democratic Committee at their subsequent meeting, Smith added.
The position entails attending meetings, finding and supporting candidates for local office, and petitioning for candidates on a regional and national level — going out and gathering signatures to get them on the ballot, Smith said.
The committee voted to endorse Delgado for Congress in February, Smith said.
“The committee as a whole felt it was appropriate to endorse him,” Smith said, though he added the vote was not unanimous and some of the committee members are supporting other candidates.
Smith declined to say that he was supporting Delgado personally.
“I’m not endorsing any candidate personally,” he said. “I’m going to support whoever wins the primary.”
The Dutchess County Democratic Committee voted to endorse Delgado March 1.
It was “a close vote,” according to the Dutchess County Democratic Committee, which used a “Ranked Choice Voting” system to choose their candidate, wherein voters rank their choices from most favored to least instead of choosing a single candidate.
Delgado received 51.5 percent of the vote, while Flynn came in second, with 48.5 percent, according to the committee.
Congressional primaries in New York are June 26th.
For more coverage of the NY-19 race, click here.