Antonio Delgado repeatedly attacked Congressman John Faso’s record to thunderous applause at a town hall event held in Cairo, Greene County Friday night.
The democratic nominee flayed Faso, the Republican he is trying to unseat, for his vote to overturn Obamacare, and said Faso was not fulfilling his responsibilities as a congressman, calling him “dishonest” and saying he engages in “double talk.”
Delgado also spoke about the culture of greed in sectors of American society and about returning to a culture of decency, as well as addressing his former rap career and touching on student debt in his opening remarks and a Q-and-A session with about 150 attendees.
The debate came the day news broke that Faso twice refused to debate Delgado because Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield would not be included. Activists worry the progressive Greenfield will take votes away from Delgado.
Delgado, a Harvard Law graduate and Schenectady native, directly responded to attacks the Faso campaign and its’ Super-PAC backers have launched in the past month.
“People say — Are you going to go low? Are you going to be dirty? — No, I don’t have to, there’s no need to when the facts speak for themselves,” Delgado said. “It’s not dirty to say someone lied when they did. It’s not dirty to say somebody turned their back on the most vulnerable, when the record makes that plain — that’s just telling the truth.”
Responding to a question about the split between what Faso says and does, Delgado brought up the congressman’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, and two promises Delgado said Faso broke with the vote.
The first promise was to Andrea Mitchell, a woman with multiple health issues who lost her insurance due to pre-existing conditions but was able to get on Obamacare.
Mitchell, who personally knew Faso, confronted him on video in January 2017, asking him to say, “I promise that we will not take this away from you.”
Faso promised three times, then hugged her, but voted to repeal Obamacare later that year.
The bill was ultimately defeated in the Senate, the late Sen. John McCain casting the deciding vote.
Delgado also brought up Faso’s statements saying he opposed defunding Planned Parenthood. Faso ultimately flipped on his word when he voted to advance the American Health Care Act, according to the Times-Union, a bill ultimately yanked before it could be voted on due to a lack of support.
“He’s had a track record of being a bit too — dishonest,” Delgado said of Faso.
With Michell, Faso should have been truthful about his position, Delgado said, instead of saying what she wanted to hear.
“Just be honest,” Delgado said. “But out of political expedience, and a lack of having a spine – in my estimation – [Faso] caved. We don’t need that right now. We need people who have principals and who stand up on those principals.”
Faso engaged in “double-talk” about the FBI’s investigation in Russian election meddling, Delgado said, referencing statements Faso made to the Daily Freeman about the investigation, where he denied it being a witch hunt, but said he hoped it could be “concluded shortly” and understands the impatience some feel about it.
“I call it trying to have it both ways,” Delgado said, adding he felt the investigation had been very “fruitful” so far.
Delgado spoke about the rap career he perused after law school, which Super-PACs supporting Faso have repeatedly attacked.
He responded to a question about why he chose to pursue rap with a prestigious degree under his belt by joking, “I feel like I’m talking to my mom right now — and my dad.”
He could have gotten a lucrative job at a law firm, Delgado said, “but it goes back to values that were instilled in me — service, and finding out how I could reach folks [who] back then I knew were being marginalized, who felt apathetic, who felt that the system wasn’t responding to them.”
He talked of what his called hip-hop’s political “essence,” which he tried to carry on by “speak[ing] about issues from my perspective, speaking about income inequality within the framework of hip-hop, speaking about wealth disparity, speaking about climate change.”
He contrasted his approach to hip-hop with some modern rap that “becomes commodified and commercialized and plays into stereotypes to sell the music.”
After working odd jobs to support his musical passion for more than four years he got older, Delgado said.
“My wife came along, and we wanted to have a family, and you think about other things and how you want to prioritize life, and I wanted to have a family and….be a provider,” he said.
Delgado went on to work as a litigator at the law firm Akin Gump, based in New York City.
He referenced an ad by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a conservative Super-PAC, claiming Delgado’s lyrics “minimized 9/11,” which included an image of the exploding Twin Towers with Delgado’s lyric “God Bless Iraq.”
Delgado repeated the song’s lyrics in their larger context to the crowd, which read, “God bless America, God bless Iraq, God bless us all.”
The commercial was inaccurate and using the 9/11 image in a commercial was “not OK,” Delgado said.
“It’s disgusting, it’s just flat wrong, and I don’t know how you could even live with yourself, knowing that it’s wrong,” he said.
Delgado also attacked the Republican-backed Tax Bill, admitting many people got “a little bump in their paychecks,” but pointed out those tax cuts are not permanent, while the cuts to the corporate tax bill are.
The Tax Bill should be repealed, Delgado said to some of the most raucous cheers of the night.
“John Faso has suggested that I’m anti-free market, anti-capitalistic — that’s flat wrong,” Delgado went onto say. “What I am is anti-unchecked capitalism, that’s what I have a problem with. There’s a role for the profit motive to play, it incentivizes, it creates ingenuity, it promotes self-determination….it’s a pillar of our society, but you know what is also a pillar of our society?…being a democracy, and when the democracy is being overwhelmed by an unchecked capitalistic system, we end up in an oligarchy, not a democracy.”
Delgado also touched on student debt, saying he was for loan forgiveness programs and debt-free tuition. He had talked to former students saddled with debt who asked how they could live life free of the burden, Delgado said.
“Now we’re the nation where we claim to be the home of the brave, land of the free, but too many folks right now don’t feel free, they feel stuck, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Delgado said. “So here’s what I say: if we’re the land of the free, home of the brave, well, if we don’t feel free, it’s time to be brave.”
The crowd was very supportive of Delgado, and an audience member pointed out they most likely showed up ready to vote for the democrat. Delgado responded he was trying to have the Town Halls — this was his first of 11 I the coming weeks — in more traditionally conservative areas.
In the only independent poll released to date, Faso is leading Delgado by 5 points. Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield was not included in the poll.
The election is Nov. 6.
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