ONEONTA, N.Y. — At a town hall for Democratic House candidate Antonio Delgado on Friday, a young man stirred up the crowd with a call for a government takeover of health care.
"The answer is communism," he shouted, sparking laughter and rebuttals from some of the dozens gathered in the lecture hall at the State University of New York College at Oneonta. The man added: "I'm serious."
"I get the frustration," responded Delgado, an attorney, Rhodes scholar and onetime rapper trying to win the Republican-held 19th District of New York in November's midterm election. The Democrat, who backs a so-called public option to allow anyone to opt in to Medicare, urged caution and said his party needs to think about how to "move the ball."
"All change, right, does not happen overnight," said Delgado, a 41-year-old who aims to unseat first-term GOP Rep. John Faso.
Delgado and dozens of Democratic House candidates across the country have made health care their signature issue as they try to flip the 23 GOP-held seats needed to take control of the chamber. Their criticism of unpopular GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and pledges to shield popular pre-existing conditions coverage enshrined in the law have put Republican candidates on their heels in battleground districts.
The GOP has countered by arguing Democrats, even those like Delgado who do not support a single-payer system, want a radical government takeover of the health-care system. In swing districts like New York's 19th, Democrats have tried to leverage health care to their advantage while taking care not to move too far to the left on the issue and open themselves to GOP attacks.