USPresidential Elections 2016

Election frenzy in New York ahead of Tuesday's primary

A supporter driving a car painted with Mrs Clinton's face before the start of the Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn last Thursday.
A supporter driving a car painted with Mrs Clinton's face before the start of the Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn last Thursday.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Supporters turn part-time political activists as candidates criss-cross state to fire up voters

The presidential election frenzy hit New York this past week as candidates criss-crossed the state holding town hall meetings and rallies, hoping to fire up their base before the primary election on Tuesday.

Supporters too became part-time political activists, standing on subway platforms giving out fliers after work or calling other supporters from their homes, reminding them to cast their vote on a day when voter turnout is paramount.

At a monumental rally of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday, more than 20,000 people descended on Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan, some waiting more than 10 hours to see the Vermont senator.

 

Actress Natalia Plaza, 29, who was standing in line, said: "I want to vote for someone who will take care of the people. Not someone who is corrupt or bought."

Also in line were Mr Brian Geraghty, 38, a bartender who wore a onesie covered with images of Mr Sanders, and artist Steph Burr, 27, who sold a poster she had designed to raise funds for the candidate.


FOR THE PEOPLE

Cruz is for small government, for religious liberty and will defend the people's rights.

MS JACKIE KLINE, 21, student, on why she supports Texas Senator Ted Cruz.



SMART AND CAPABLE

Hillary is smart, she is educated, everyone has their good and bad (sides), but she has the best experience and is a woman who is capable of running the country.

MRS JANAKI KODAGI, 54, who works in real estate, on why she supports former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.


THUMBS UP FOR FREE COLLEGE
 

We have to have free public healthcare and anybody who can and wants to go to college should be able to. We should not make them debtors just because they want to go to college. Do we want a stupid country?

MR RICHARD COLEMAN, 72, retired, on supporting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and his free college policy.



TOUGH GUY

He says what everyone is thinking and is tough... I think he will be tough on other countries. Foreign policy is all about being tough.

MR CONNOR O'NEIL, 22, businessman, on why he supports real estate mogul Donald Trump.


AGAINST POLITICS OF MISTRUST

The whole world is laughing at us because of Trump... In NYC, there are many overseas contract workers and housekeepers and nannies leaving their children in the Philippines. We have a lot of immigrants here and they are honest, dependable and responsible.

MS JANE DREMDAIN, 60, a hospital administrator, on why she is against Mr Trump and will be voting for Mr Sanders.

The next day, hundreds turned up with banners, musical instruments and loudhailers to protest against Republican front runner Donald Trump outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where a Republican fund-raiser was taking place.

Most of the protesters were Democrats, but Republicans too came to denounce the real estate mogul.

Fashion and business student Jackie Kline, 21, a supporter of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, said Mr Trump's rhetoric is "doing irreparable damage to the party".

"We want to be an inclusive party for all religions and races," she said.

Yet, Mr Trump has brand recognition in the state and has a comfortable lead of 31 percentage points over his closest competitor, Ohio Governor John Kasich.

The stakes in New York are particularly high this year, unlike in previous presidential primary races.

During the last election, President Barack Obama was the incumbent and Republican candidate Mitt Romney pretty much had the nomination in the bag by the time New Yorkers cast their vote.

"This year, for the first time in many years, there are two competitive primaries in New York state, and neither party has a definite nominee at this point," said professor of political science Kristi Andersen from Syracuse University.

With 291 Democratic delegates up for grabs in New York, Mr Sanders could make a dent in former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's lead, if he wins big, but that seems unlikely at the moment as Mrs Clinton is 13 points ahead in the polls.

According to American media, Mr Sanders has 1,087 delegates and Mrs Clinton 1,307. Both are hoping to reach the decisive 2,383 delegates before the July national convention.

As for the Republicans, candidates need to pick up 1,237 delegates to be the nominee. Failing to do so would mean the choice is left to the delegates on the floor of the Republican convention in July, a scenario that Mr Trump is hoping to avoid as it might cost him the nomination. At the moment, he leads with 742 delegates.

Not taking his home state for granted, Mr Trump spent the week campaigning in upstate New York in places such as Syracuse, Rome and Albany. His rivals too spent much of their time outside New York City where about 60 per cent of the state's population lives.

"The missions of both the Cruz and Kasich campaigns is to keep Trump under 50 per cent in as many congressional districts as possible," said University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor of Political Science James Campbell.

Doing his part to energise the Trump campaign is artist and evangelical minister Julian Raven, from Elmira, in upstate New York, who hosted a Trump event at his art studio yesterday to get out the vote. He admits, however, that he is living among many who aren't fans of Mr Trump.

To appeal to residents in New York, Mr Trump, Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders are all playing up their ties to the state. Mrs Clinton was a New York senator and lives in Chappaqua, New York, while Mr Sanders has highlighted that he was born and raised in Brooklyn. New York City is also Mr Trump's home.

But being from the state also has its disadvantages. In the case of Mrs Clinton, some voters felt she was not an effective senator and was too closely tied to Wall Street.

Make-up artist Birgitte Philippides-Delaney, 48, said: "Bernie has integrity... he is for a minimum wage, against corrupt campaign finance, and he knows Wall Street got away."

She planned to spend as much time as possible standing on a busy street corner in the West Village in Manhattan encouraging people to vote for Mr Sanders.

"I will do what can. If he wins, I was on the right side of history. If he doesn't, then at least I did my part."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Election frenzy in New York ahead of Tuesday's primary'. Print Edition | Subscribe