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A Conversation with Antonio Delgado

NY19's Congressman-Elect Talks about His Campaign and His Plans for Washington

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BKM: How do you intend to make that happen in DC?

AD: Well, one way is to actually do the work of engaging with everybody there across the aisle, not just siloing myself off and saying, "I'm just going to only work with these individuals or only those people who call themselves X," but actually, saying "Anybody who's interested in an infrastructure bill, let's talk. Anybody who's interested in increasing wages for people, let's talk. Anybody who's interested in improving our health care system, let's talk." And I think it's sort of casting a broad net and saying, okay who's out there on either side of the aisle who wants to focus on these issues? Who wants to deal with climate change? Right? Who wants to tackle that? Right? So, you start from that and get to have these kind of conversations, and you do that intentionally for the purpose of results here back home.

BKM: Let's talk about priorities. Going into this session, what are your top priorities?

AD: Well, I'm a big believer that you govern based on how you campaign. I campaigned on health care. So, that was top priority. It's going to be my top priority as a congressman. I campaigned making sure that we expand coverage and get people the choice to opt into Medicare. I want to fight for that. I campaigned on making sure Medicare has negotiating power with big pharma. I want to fight for that. I campaigned on dealing with the opioid epidemic. I want to fight for that.

BKM: What does dealing with the opioid epidemic look like in this district? How can you help in Congress?

AD: Well, we need funding for drug treatment centers. The key is how do we decriminalize the behavior and stop treating incarceration as the treatment of choice, because that's currently what it is. And we need to look at examples like Chief Volkmann out in Chatham in Columbia County. [Oversimplified synopsis: Police in Chatham are emphasizing treatment over arrest for addicts.] That's a prime example of something that we can model out and fund, and find funding for, I would hope on the federal level. That would ultimately allow us to both deal with the stigma of addiction and enable people who are struggling with the addiction to find other avenues for treatment via drug treatment centers and drug courts, rather than just being siloed off into the criminal justice system.

To me there's funding opportunities for that. And one of the things that I've talked to with folks in DC about, and leadership in particular, is how do I directly fight for that work? There's a bipartisan task force, the opioid task force, that I'm hoping to be a part of and have a leadership role on to make sure we bring attention to this issue specifically and fight for the funding that is lacking right now. So that, to me, is an area where I certainly want to be front and center on.

BKM: So, health care, opioids—

AD: Yes, and in the same scope, before we leave health care, mental health care access is another big one. Lyme disease, you know. We have the highest levels of deer ticks here in the Hudson Valley.

BKM: Sure, Lyme disease is a huge problem here. How can you help?

AD: Well, I think there are funding opportunities that are out there again for R&D that can allow us to figure out ways to tackle this. Obviously, health care, fighting for health care to make sure that we protect pre-existing conditions so that individuals who are suffering from Lyme disease aren't priced out of the market. That's a big place. Working with the experts in the field and making sure that I have a direct dialog with the experts who have done a lot of work, and the activists in this arena, to make sure that we shed light on this issue. But primarily I think it's about finding the appropriate funding for the research and the development, and then of course making sure that we have a health care system that allows those who actually are impacted by it to get the treatment they deserve without fear of any sort of cost barriers. And then outside of health care, I would say it's economic development and how we actually create meaningful jobs.

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