ALBANY — Ana Maria Archila is ready to go toe to toe with her opponents.
The activist-turned-candidate running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor said Thursday more debates are needed in order to familiarize New Yorkers with the race for the state’s second highest elected office.
Archila said the 11th hour addition of Rep. Antonio Delgado, soon to be sworn in as Gov. Hochul’s right hand man following the arrest and resignation of former lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin, warrants additional chances for candidates to spar on issues affecting state residents.
“This has been one of the most chaotic election cycles in memory,” Archila told the Daily News. “Voters, I think, are very understandably confused and there is a lot of information to absorb. A lot of people don’t yet know the full field of the lieutenant governor’s race.”
Earlier this month, the Democratic-led Legislature approved a measure allowing Benjamin to remove himself from the ballot after he was indicted on federal corruption charges, clearing the way for Delgado to face off against Archila and former city councilwoman Diana Reyna in the primary.
There are currently three debates scheduled ahead of the June 28 contest. Archila said she would like to see at least another trio added as the election quickly approaches.
“I think New Yorkers need a full series of debates so they can hear directly from candidates talking about both the range of issues and also our vision for the lieutenant governor position,” Archila said.
The Columbian immigrant is a longtime progressive activist and the co-founder of the advocacy group Make the Road New York. She drew national attention in 2018 when she confronted former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in a Capitol Hill elevator.
The viral moment captured Archila as she castigated Flake over his support of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh despite accusations of sexual assault.
Reyna backed Archila’s call for more debates and blasted Hochul over the chain of events that led to Delgado joining the race as “a secretive, silent process that raises more questions than answers.”
“New Yorkers deserve to hear from at least the two Latinas who are unquestionably running for lieutenant governor so they can debate their visions to address the crime, chaos and corruption in Hochul’s Albany,” she said.
Delgado was picked by Hochul earlier this month to serve as lieutenant governor and running mate as she seeks a full term in office.
A spokeswoman said he “looks forward to the opportunity to let voters know where he stands on the issues that matter to them in a debate ahead of the primary election.”
It’s unclear exactly when the 45-year-old will be sworn in; Hochul said it will happen soon.
“We are working on the timing of the timing of the proper transition from his responsibilities as a member of Congress to step into this role,” the governor said during a Manhattan press conference on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of other unfinished business I want to make sure that he’s able to continue for his constituents.”
Hochul committed last week to participating in a pair of televised Democratic primary debates against her own primary opponents, Rep. Tom Suozzi and city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
In a joint letter released last month, Suozzi and Williams called for additional chances to square off against the incumbent governor.
The pair say they would like a minimum of six debates held across the state ahead of the primary.
While candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in party primaries and later join on a formal ticket in the general election, Archila is running alongside Williams and Reyna with Suozzi.
Archila said while the role of lieutenant governor is historically seen as a ceremonial position, she would like to reshape the position and use the office to better represent everyday New Yorkers in Albany.
“I have been very insistent in the idea that the lieutenant governor needs to do more than just cut ribbons,” she said. “It needs to be an office that amplifies the voices that get drowned out in Albany.”