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Hochul-Zeldin race is drawing attention, but who are their running mates?

Alison Esposito and Anthony Delgado, side-by-side from 2 different photos
Delgado: NY Governor's Office / Esposito: New York NOW
Alison Esposito, left, and Anthony Delgado are competing in this year's race for New York lieutenant governor.

Voters have heard a lot about the two candidates running for New York governor: Democrat Kathy Hochul, who is seeking a full term in office, and Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin.

But their running mates — Democrat and former congressional representative Antonio Delgado and former police captain Alison Esposito, who is running on the Republican ticket — have not received as much attention.

In New York, candidates for lieutenant governor do not run separately in the general election but rather as part of a ticket with the candidate in their party who is running for governor. But whoever prevails will be the No. 2 elected official in the state, and first in the succession line for governor, so it’s worth paying attention to them.

In the past 14 years, two lieutenant governors have suddenly found themselves taking over the state’s top executive post when the governors resigned in disgrace. David Paterson replaced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who exited in a prostitution scandal. And Gov. Kathy Hochul was the state’s lieutenant governor until Andrew Cuomo resigned over multiple scandals, including sexual harassment allegations, in August 2021.

Delgado, who left his seat in Congress representing a district in the Hudson Valley to become lieutenant governor, was not Hochul’s first choice. Hochul, shortly after becoming governor last year, chose state Sen. Brian Benjamin for the post. But Benjamin was forced to resign just seven months later after he was indicted by federal prosecutors and accused of participating in a bribery scandal involving campaign donations.

“It’s just an honor to be able to stand here with you and do this work together,” Delgado told Hochul on May 3. “I’m excited to partner with you and build a better future for New York.”

Delgado, who is of African-American and Cape Verdean descent, grew up in Schenectady. He attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, graduated from Harvard Law School, and then lived in New York City for a time before running successfully for the congressional seat in 2018.

He is married with twin 8-year-old sons.

Delgado agrees with Hochul that abortion rights need to be protected in New York after the recent U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. He spoke at a rally at the state Capitol organized by Planned Parenthood in May, shortly after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion was leaked.

”There’s something about the time that we are living in right now,” Delgado said on May 3. “Where it feels like all of the things that people before us have sacrificed and shed blood and marched and protested for is being relitigated.”

He also backs gun control measures, including the state’s recently approved law regulating the carrying of concealed weapons, as well as stronger red flag laws to help prevent mass shootings and other gun violence.

Alison Esposito, a 25-year veteran of the New York Police Department, is Republican Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin’s running mate.

She’s a graduate of the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as well as the FBI National Academy. Esposito was the commander of a precinct in Brooklyn, as well as a deputy inspector, before retiring in July to campaign full time.

Esposito’s priority issue is fighting the violent crime spike that began during the pandemic. She wants to repeal the state’s 2019 criminal justice reforms, including an end to most forms of cash bail. She said she saw firsthand the negative results of that law.

“My officers going out every day, interacting with some of the most violent criminals, repeat offenders, arresting individuals with loaded illegal firearms,” Esposito said at a news conference before the police memorial in New York City on Oct. 21. “And those perpetrators were back in the precincts, collecting their property to go home, before my officers were even done processing their arrest.”

She said Republicans need to be elected to repeal those laws, and she backs Zeldin’s proposal to declare a crime state of emergency on his first day as governor, and temporarily suspend the bail reform and other criminal justice laws.

“In Albany, they have turned a blind eye to it,” Esposito said. “They actually think New Yorkers are fools.”

Hochul and Democrats who lead the State Legislature altered the bail laws in April, adding back more bail-eligible crimes and giving judges more discretion to set bail. But Zeldin and Esposito say that’s not enough.

If elected, Esposito would be the first openly gay lieutenant governor of New York.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.