It should come as no surprise that Republican New Yorkers chose Donald Trump as pick for their candidate in the state’s primary elections on Tuesday. Hate him or love him, Trump is, of course, a native son. And New Yorkers like New Yorkers. That fact made watching New York’s Democratic primary all the more interesting.
While policy matters, the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sought to get their respective candidates to appeal to primary voters by entering that New York state of mind. Senator Sanders began his closing statement at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at the last Democratic debate on Thursday, April 14, with, “I grew up in Brooklyn, New York.” The senator from Vermont’s Brooklyn accent is so unchanged that Larry David effortlessly and regularly plays the candidate on Saturday Night Live.
The crowd, sitting just seven miles from the Brooklyn neighborhood that saw Sanders grow, loved it. Clinton was prepared. The two-time New York senator called the Empire State “our state” when it was her turn to offer a final pitch. When referring to New Yorkers, Clinton said “we.” She mentioned the terror attacks of September 11, and called the brave men and women who worked tirelessly to save lives at Ground Zero “our first responders.” She even asked for help to take “New York values” to the White House, a rebuke of Ted Cruz’s comments that got him blasted on the cover of the New York Daily News back in January. “Drop dead, Ted,” the newspaper proclaimed, “You don’t like N.Y. values? Go back to Canada!”
Cruz felt the wrath of New Yorkers when he thought it a good idea to venture into the heavily Democratic 15th congressional district in the South Bronx less than two weeks before the state’s primary. “This is an immigrant community!” one woman yelled as she followed the Texas senator under an elevated train, even saying he should “get out of the Bronx!” Cruz was accompanied by some of the Bronx’s religious figures, including New York State Senator, the Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. with his trademark cowboy hat.
Even Senator Diaz’s son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. — a Clinton supporter —doesn’t like Cruz. “Ted Cruz is a hypocrite,” the younger Diaz said before Cruz met with his father. “He not only offended New Yorkers, he offended Bronxites, and now he’s here today in New York and in the Bronx looking for money and votes.” Even younger Bronxites would have none of Senator Cruz, who had to cancel a high school visit after students threatened their administration with a walk out if the candidate were allowed to speak on campus.
The third and most traditional Republican candidate still in the primaries, Ohio Governor John Kasich, also tried his luck at appealing to New Yorkers. In Borough Park, Brooklyn, Kasich spoke to Hassidic Jews about Jesus Christ. The moment was heart-wrenchingly awkward. The governor tried again. He argued with a Talmudic scholar about whether Moses or Abraham was more important to Judaism. “Moses is up there,” the religious Brooklynite told the would-be president. It wasn’t clear if Kasich was trying to appeal to Christians, Jews, or both. At least Kasich did better than New York values-hating Cruz. Kasich won 25 percent of the votes of Republican New Yorkers — that to Cruz’s 15 percent.
Trump, from Queens and with New York City skyscrapers bearing his name, won 60 percent of the vote. He took 89 of his home state’s 95 delegates, or 94 percent of those special Republicans. Kasich took three. Cruz none.
On the Democratic side, Clinton was born and raised in Illinois, lived in Arkansas, spent a lot of her career in Washington, D.C., but resides in the well-to-do New York City suburb of Chappaqua, in Westchester County. She played — and won — a game of dominoes in historically Puerto Rican East Harlem. “So help me win next Tuesday!” the former Secretary of State said to the men she beat. When Clinton was in the Bronx, she had difficulty passing her Metrocard (not always an easy task) to get onto an uptown 4 train from the Yankee Stadium station. (Sanders didn’t even know that subway tokens were no longer used to get onto the intricate but notoriously frustrating New York City subway.) Once on the subway, Clinton assessed the MTA’s system. “I love it because it’s so convenient,” she said. Not sure any New Yorker has uttered such words in recent memory — certainly not about the 4 train.
Nonetheless, Democratic New Yorkers went with what they know. They elected Clinton twice to the Senate, and gave her — and not Obama — New York in the 2008 primaries. So it was again last night. Clinton took 58 percent of the vote to Sanders’s 42 percent.
Of course, New York holds a closed primary election, so the independents and members of parties other than the big two couldn’t vote. Many of those votes would have gone to Sanders, who only lost to Clinton by a quarter of a million votes. Some Democrats allege that their party affiliation was changed without their consent or even knowledge. Those men and women were unable to vote.
For now, Clinton has 135 of New York’s delegates, to Sanders’s 104. With a race so close and thousands of voters left out of Tuesday’s exercise, perhaps Sanders really is the real New Yorker?