As Democratic hopeful and lone centrist, Delaney has more than a sporting chance

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BRUIN MOMENTUM? Democratic presidential nominee hopeful John Delaney jokes around during a stop at Granite Steak and Grill in Rochester on Tuesday. (Rochester Voice photo)

ROCHESTER - It may be hard to believe that potential 2020 Democrat presidential hopefuls like John Hickenlooper, Pete Buttigieg and Eric Swalwell are ahead of John Delaney.

But Delaney, 55, a centrist Democrat and former Maryland Congressman, who was the first to file his candidacy papers more than 18 months ago, told The Rochester Voice during an exclusive interview on Tuesday he's not fazed by his bottom-tier ranking or how front-running leftists like Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand have grabbed the lion's share of media oxygen.

"We're working on that," Delaney quipped, referring to his lack of exposure on the late-night comedy shows.

But one thing about Delaney: He's not afraid to buck the mainstream Democratic narrative.

In fact, while many in the party urge calm amid the furor over the continued legitimacy of Virginia's top three Democratic leaders, Delaney said on Tuesday he's privately urged them all to resign.

"If I was a Virginian, I'd want some special elections," Delaney said during an hourlong interview over lunch at Smokey's Tavern at the Granite Steak and Grill.

Delaney said he had called on all three, including the state's governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, to step down.

But Delaney reserved his harshest criticism for Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

"You can't unsee what you've already seen, so I think he can't lead," Delaney said, adding Northam's first assertion that it was him in a picture depicting a white person in blackface and a Ku Klux Klansman, then that it wasn't was disingenuous at best.

"How can you say it was me and then not," he said. "It's totally impossible to get that wrong. He should resign."

Referring to Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring - both ensnared in blackface controversies - and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, accused in multiple sex assaults, Delaney said, "They have to ask themselves, do they feel they can continue to lead and feel like the people offended in their state can forgive them for what they did?

"Unless you can answer yes, you should resign."

But he conceded it's not up to him, it's ultimately up to the people of the Old Dominion State.

"At end of day it's what the people of Virginia feel," he said.

It's this kind of centrist free thinking - not to mention an unparalleled ground game in Iowa and New Hampshire - that Delaney thinks will get him over the hump after the nation's first caucus and primary begins to winnow the field a year from now.

Delaney has already made 23 campaign visits to Iowa and 14 to New Hampshire, where he thinks his centrist message bringing people together to solve national problems makes him very unique in the Democratic primary landscape.

Central to his strategy is winning over moderate Democrats and Republicans as well as a growing Independent voting bloc en route to a possible nomination.

"We're working harder, and we think we have a message that resonates with most Americans," Delaney added.

Central to his quest for bipartisan over bickering, Delaney has proclaimed that, if elected commander in chief, the first 100 days of his presidency will be devoted to bipartisan issues like establishing regulations on digital privacy, an infrastructure improvement plan, immigration reform and criminal justice reform.

He also wants to introduce a new type of non-mandatory National Service Corps, where young people could sign up for either the military, community involvement or infrastructure enhancement perhaps rebuilding national parks.

Regarding the contentious issue of border security, Delaney scoffed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's contention that a border wall is immoral.

"A border wall is not immoral," he said, "It's a piece of infrastructure."

He suggested the issue should be dealt with rationally and without rancor.

"It's very easy to solve," Delaney said. "First decide on how much money we want to spend, let's say we agree on $5 billion.

"Then get the experts, not politicians, to decide how to do it. It could be more people, it could be sensors and it could be barriers. But the president and Congress should agree to take their experts' opinions."

Regarding the wave of socialistic fervor that has colored a new faction of the Democratic party, Delaney is an unabashed "anti-socialist."

"We can't abandon the fundamental model of the country," he said, noting, however, that "a bunch of candidates have entered the race who have promised a bunch of things and they're creating a lot of energy."

That said, he believes their currency will diminish when the rubber hits the road and Democrats begin to narrow their choices to who can actually beat President Trump.

"As we get closer to the election you know what Democrats are going to ask? 'How do we beat Trump?' That's the only thing they're going to care about. And they will realize if you run on policies that once people understand them are not popular with the majority of American people, that you're not going to beat Trump with that."

In a Washington Post-ABC poll published within the last week, Delaney was ranked at #23, but that doesn't faze Delaney in the least.

"It's a long race, he said, "and I'm the only centrist running. There may be no others."

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