Antonio Delgado Backed a Green New Deal on the Campaign Trail, but Hasn’t Since the Election

The Green New Deal has gained traction in the Democratic caucus in the weeks since last month’s Democratic wave election.

Democrat Antonio Delgado speaks after it was announced that he defeated incumbent Republican John Faso at a democratic watch party in Kingston, N.Y., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Antonio Delgado speaks after defeating incumbent Republican John Faso at a Democratic watch party in Kingston, N.Y., on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP

Antonio Delgado, the incoming representative from New York’s 19th District, hasn’t signed onto the “Green New Deal” yet.

Yet during the height of his congressional campaign, he name-checked the program in front of voters and was tied to it in the media.

In Delgado’s comments to the crowd at the League of Conservation Voters forum in August, he cited the Green New Deal in an inspirational dash of opening rhetoric, which positioned saving the environment as part of an American aspirational story. According to Delgado, transitioning to clean energy is not only the moral choice for the future, but an economically viable one.

“It is very important to understand that we could go to the moon, but what are doing, right now, to save earth?” Delgado said. “Why aren’t we thinking bigger? Why aren’t we challenging ourselves about the next frontier, what it might look like? Why aren’t we thinking of a Green New Deal?”

Now that Democrats are thinking of a Green New Deal, however, Delgado’s name is noticeably absent. A proposal from incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uses the Green New Deal as a springboard for rules that would radically revamp the U.S. economy in an effort to fight back against the consequences of climate change and limit the damage already done.

Long considered an idealistic but unrealistic proposal, the Green New Deal has gained traction in the Democratic caucus in the weeks since last month’s Democratic wave election. Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts to get leadership on board with the proposal have benefitted from the support of some of her fellow incoming Democrats from last month’s wave election.

A number of those new members have already signed up for Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation. Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Joe Neguse (CO-2),and Deb Haaland (NM-1) have all signaled their support for the program, and at least 17 House Democrats are on board. A group of them appeared last Friday morning outside the Capitol to reiterate their demands. On Monday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., hosted a town hall on the Green New Deal and invited Ocasio-Cortez.

Delgado seems like he’d fit into that group: His core supporters tilt to the left on most issues, though the 19th, which is predominately rural and over 80 percent white, is considered a swing district. Delgado’s win over incumbent Republican John Faso was the culmination of two years of hard work by activists who made unseating the Republican a focus of their opposition to the Trump administration. Delgado’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. He will not be sworn in until January, but that hasn’t stopped other incoming freshmen from signing on.

Delgado’s use of the Green New Deal language at the August League of Conservation Voters forum didn’t sit well with Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield, who wasn’t invited to speak to voters at the event. The forum was packed, a turnout that underscored the importance of environmental issues to voters in the 19th.

In a contemporaneous press release, Greenfield said that Delgado’s “opening statement was nearly word for word what Greenfield had been handing out on a leaflet on the sidewalk just before the event.” Greenfield told The Intercept on Sunday that Delgado hadn’t mentioned the Green New Deal again during the race. “It was a one-time mention,” said Greenfield, “in front of a specific audience.”

Now that he’s been elected to Congress, Delgado has the opportunity to deliver on the promise of the Green New Deal — but he has yet to take advantage of that opportunity. In an interview with the Cooperstown Crier on November 15, the incoming member of Congress hedged his language on the issue.

“We have so much investment in fossil fuels right now and the way we speak about infrastructure build-out facilitates the distribution of fossil fuels,” said Delgado, “and we have to be more focused and intentional about moving towards a green-energy economy.”

That couched language and Delgado’s refusal thus far to endorse the program hasn’t stopped his name being tied to the legislation, however. In a number of news reports on the Green New Deal since the election, Delgado was referred to as a “Green New Deal candidate.” He got that treatment in a November 8 Reuters piece; a week later, he was mentioned as a member of the “Green New Deal Wing” of the Democratic Party in Consumer Affairs; and he has been linked to the program in publications like the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Common Dreams.

Delgado’s website also contains language that hints at an openness to Green New Deal legislation in all but name.

“I do not believe that job creation and environmental conservation need to be in conflict,” Delgado tells voters in the Issues section. “Clean energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, and I will do everything I can to encourage the growth of clean energy jobs in our region by fighting to shift tax credits and subsidies away from the fossil fuel industry to the renewable energy space.”

This misconception on Delgado’s positions isn’t unique to the Green New Deal. In June, the NPR radio program This American Life spent an hour profiling the race, focusing on one of Delgado’s primary opponents, the left-leaning Jeff Beals. Reporter Ben Calhoun found that voters in the district were unclear on Delgado’s views on “Medicare for All” — Delgado does not support it — and they believed that the then-candidate was for the legislation despite Delgado’s rejection of the popular progressive program in a primary debate.

In a statement on November 28, the incoming representative told his constituents that their interests would be his priority in Congress. “As an elected representative, I will always put the priorities of my district at the heart of every decision I make and will be accountable to every constituent,” said Delgado.

He did not mention a Green New Deal.

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