Health care defines NY19 House race between John Faso, Antonio Delgado

Like candidates in other races for GOP-held seats across the country, Faso has tried to push the focus away from health care. The Republican has cast Delgado as a liberal who best embodies New York City values. He contends Delgado parachuted into the district to run for Congress and does not fit the area’s values.

“That upstate-downstate cleavage is always powerful” as an attack, said Gina Keel, a professor of political science at SUNY Oneonta who identifies as a Democrat.

Ads from national Republican groups seizing on Delgado’s rap songs from 2007 have also stoked accusations of racism in the district. One unveiled last month by House Republicans’ campaign arm calls Delgado, who is black, a “big city rapper” who supports a “radical government takeover of health care.”

His music included lyrics such as: “Dead presidents can’t represent me, not when most of them believed in white supremacy.” Faso said Friday that the Democrat “should explain what he means” and that “it wouldn’t bother me if it was rap or poetry or folk music.” Delgado, for his part, recently told the Poughkeepsie Journal that his lyrics “were about empowering people on the margin.”

Delgado and numerous fellow Democratic challengers have pushed to keep the focus on health care — while taking pains to avoid the GOP label of socialist. As he responded to the young man at the town hall event who called for a government takeover of the system Friday, he noted that progressions in civil, labor and LGBTQ rights have come gradually.

He highlighted the ACA as one incremental change for the better. Before the law passed in 2010, insurers could deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, he noted.

Now, “we’re almost aghast” at that prospect, Delgado said. He cast himself as the better option to prevent regression on health care.

“We almost forget that that was actually the world we lived in,” Delgado said.

— Graphic by CNBC’s John Schoen

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