Jerry Kremer

Two isn’t always a winning number


There are all types of numbers associated with politicians. Pollsters are constantly bombarding us with numbers. Defeated candidates keep complaining that they won, and say they have the numbers to prove it. But the bottom line in this discussion is that the number 2 is by far the worst number to be attached to any political figure.
As living proof of the value of being second, I cite Vice President Kamala Harris and New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado. There is no question that either of them would become No. 1 if anything happened to her/his boss. But looking at their scope of responsibilities shows that they have very little to do. Harris is rarely in the news, primarily because she hasn’t been given that much to do on a daily basis. She’s called upon to attend important funerals, but the press rarely says much about her.
With the 2024 presidential election coming up, there is speculation about whether President Biden will make Harris his running mate if he decides to run again. Most political observers think she would be a drag on the 2024 ticket, because she hasn’t been associated with any winning issues. Shortly after she took on her official duties, the president assigned her the responsibility of helping solve the border crisis, which is proving more difficult than curing cancer.
There was an opportunity for Harris to make some serious recommendations on how to solve the crisis, but she felt the issue was too toxic and declined to actively take on the role. She has been lobbying for the passage of the George Floyd Act, which would better clarify what the role of the police should be, but she wouldn’t be able to make any waves without Biden doing the heavy lifting. There’s also a possibility that the president has chosen not to boost her credentials because of the 2020 debates, when she went out of her way to attack Biden on school segregation.
No matter how you try to define the role of the vice president, it’s very hard to write out a list of specifications. The president decides what the V.P.’s job will be, and there are many examples of presidents giving their vice presidents serious duties. President George W. Bush delegated most of his high-level duties to Dick Cheney, and many claimed that Cheney became the real president. But the late Vice President James Nance Garner, who served under Franklin Roosevelt, is said to have had the best definition of the job, describing the vice president’s job as not being worth “a bucket of warm spit.”

Delgado’s situation is an interesting one. He’s a graduate of Colgate University and Harvard Law School. He was a very effective member of Congress who was willing to resign to take on the No. 2 position in Albany. Gov. Kathy Hochul spent every waking hour of her time as lieutenant governor traveling to every corner of the state. She got to know every local chamber of commerce, and elected officials marveled at her nonstop visits. There is no doubt that her tenacity helped her get elected governor.
Currently, however, the only job Delgado has is to preside over the State Senate, which isn’t the most exciting work. No doubt after April 1, when the state budget is out of the way, Hochul will decide what role he will play. Delgado is personable and articulate, and was well received during his campaign swings. He could be a great advocate for the governor’s programs. She is badly in need of someone who can reach out to the Assembly and Senate members and make some friends. Delgado could help her a great deal in that role.
But either way, being No. 2 in government is hardly the best job in the business.

Jerry Kremer was an Assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?