To Just Enough People, Race Didn’t Matter

Steve Hamm photo(Updated) Like other New Haveners heading out of town to try to propel a blue wave this election season, New Haven journalist and filmmaker Steve Hamm traveled across state lines to campaign for New York Congressional candidate Antonio Delgado. Here’s what Hamm has to say about his experience campaigning for the New York Democratic challenger:

Even among died-in-the-wool Democrats, misinformation about immigrants stirs up fear and resentment. That’s one scary insight I picked up while canvassing for Antonio Delgado, a Black Latino who is running for Congress in New York’s 19th District—in the mid-Hudson Valley.

It wasn’t bad enough to decide the outcome of the election.In a victory for decency, enough white voters overlooked race to elect a black man in the whitest congressional district in New York.

More than 500 supporters packed a venue in Kingston for Delgado’s watch party. People expected a long night and a tight finish, but they were thrilled and surprised when he was declared the winner shortly after 11 p.m. A huge roar when up. People laughed, cried and embraced. It was a beautiful thing.

Delgado (pictured) was raised just north of here in Schenectady in a working-class family. He graduated from Colgate, earned a Rhodes Scholarship, got a law degree from Harvard, and now works as a lawyer in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He’s being labeled a “big city rapper” because he put out a rap album a decade ago. Still, he’s polling even with incumbent Republican John Faso.

With every election, I travel to states and districts where I think I can possibly make a tiny but meaningful difference for a candidate. I’m always struck by how many poor people I see in the richest country in the world, and by the basic decency of most Americans.

This time, we were sent only to pro-Democratic homes, but we ran into our share of Republicans and people who didn’t plan on voting for Delgado. Most were sweet about it. We debated respectfully.

But one guy didn’t get the memo. He ran up on me as I approached his tenant’s door — shouting and threatening. “Get the fuck off my property or I’ll call the police! I wouldn’t vote for that liberal fuck!” I listened stoically for a few seconds and then turned and walked away.

Responding to hate without hating in return has been a challenge for me, but I’m getting the hang of it. I guess this is how things will be as long as Donald Trump is president.

Leading up to the election, my friend, Tim Chegwidden, and I canvassed in and around Catskill. In Greene County, where Catskill is located, the population is 98 percent white. There are plenty of American flags, pickup trucks and picket fences in these parts. The last time Greene County voted for a Democrat for president was LBJ in 1964.

On Main Street in Catskill, Spike Priggen, who grew up in New Haven (and used to perform in an early 1980s New Wave band called the TV Neats), runs a used record store. He and some friends went to an Indian restaurant for “curry night” on Election Day in 2016, expecting a victory party for the Dems. “I was devastated. It’s so depressing,” he said. “I never wanted to eat Indian food again.”

Surprisingly, we encountered a black person our first day of canvassing: Danny Fogler. He met Delgado at his church and was impressed. On the other hand, Trump and his supporters scare him. “Trump brought out the white gangsters who want to kill people. They were always there, but he let them know it was okay to act on their beliefs,” says Fogler.

Ann Kourdi comes from a long line of Democrats, including her Grandma Dora, who was an early feminist. “If we didn’t vote, Grandma Dora would come down and haunt us,” said Kourdi, who is voting for Delgado for one reason: his party affiliation. “I’m a poor woman. My family is
poor. The Democratic Party cares for us. It suits people like me.”

Joe Martino plays in an anti-fascist punk band called Phantom Sleeze. He’s trying to register to vote at the last minute so he can back Delgado. “I’m against the fascists and Proud Boys,” he says. “They call themselves patriots, but I see guys with swastikas. It’s disgusting. They’re preaching their hatred.”

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posted by: JCFremont on November 5, 2018  7:03pm

What a lovely condescending piece. “Surprisingly, we encountered a black person our first day of canvassing:” Along with other tidbites of typical big city, or in New Haven’s case, “big brain” partisan journalism traveling too visit the backward people.I guess this area is not thriving only because Prince Andrew of Albany is spiting them for having a Republican Representative.

posted by: cellardoor on November 6, 2018  11:34am

The headline for this piece is poorly chosen.

posted by: JCFremont on November 6, 2018  12:57pm

@cellardoor, the above is actually a revised headline, the first was similar something about venturing into Whiteyville! This nothing more than a NY Times visits flyover country wanna be piece.