With less a month to go before the primary on April 19th, Capital Region Democrats gathered last night in uptown Albany for a "Hillary for New York" organizing event.
Albany-area Democrats turned out for a show of support for the former New York U.S. Senator ahead of the primary, which has taken a higher level of importance as relatively close races within both parties heat up, candidates signaling they'll continue to fight for their respective party nods, for the time being.
And they have good reason: the Associated Press tallied more than 20,000 first-time voters have registered in New York in what state officials have described as an "unprecedented surge" of voter interest as April 19 draws closer.
Nearly 41,000 individuals filed online voter registration applications between March 10th and 20th. The online registration system set a record last Friday with almost 14,000 registration applications received.
Former Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings emceed Wednesday’s get-together at Martel's Restaurant. "I've known Hillary and her husband since 1992, and I know what kind of president she would be, and people should not underestimate what she really would do as our president, because she's a strong leader, she understands things, she keeps in perspective and she'll stay focused on the job she knows is extremely challenging."
State Senator Neil Breslin believes Clinton oozes leadership and determination and is the best hope for America's future. "When Hillary Clinton came into New York state, people said she couldn't do it. She went through villages and towns in the North Country and converted Republicans who'd been Republicans their whole life, then went to the Senate, started working out across the aisle with John McCain and Trent Lott, and showed that she could do the job and get along with the other side and bring them into a constructive good government."
On the Republican side, Donald Trump's New York push is being conducted by 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino,who plans to bring Trump to upstate New York. Jennings and Breslin agree it's likely Clinton will visit the Capital Region. Jennings: "You know, she's been here before. She's been her many times. I had her her in 1992 with Bill, when he was running for president, and I'm sure that she's gonna recognize the importance of our state and you take nothing for granted." Breslin: "I have high hopes that she will be in this area in the not-too-distant future!"
Albany First Ward Councilmember Dorcy Applyrs says Clinton promotes equity, and it's exciting to be an elected official at a time in history when a woman could be seated in the Oval Office... "I recognize the critical need to have someone like Hillary Clinton in office as the president of the United States. One of the things that she promotes is equity and being socially responsible, thinking about the diverse needs of the varios socio-economic classes in our country."
Meantime, Senator Bernie Sanders' cohorts, among them Manhattan state Senator Bill Perkins, Albany-area state Assemblyman Phil Steck, and Albany County Legislators Sam Fein and Doug Bullock, caution against writing off Clinton's chief opponent. Albany County Legislator Merton Simpson characterizes Sanders as "a very important American legislator," one whose campaign is being funded by grassroots level supporters. "During the 60's, in '62 in fact, at the University of Chicago, he was very active with the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee, at a time of significant political progress in America, where there was a sense of consciousness and social responsibility, the likes of which we really haven't seen since. His history is one of consistent advocacy for the general population, and I think it's his authenticity and consistency that has been attributable to his great success. No question about what he stands for. He doesn't vacillate. He doesn't prevaricate."
Clinton has scored endorsements from Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and many members of Congress. A Siena College poll released in early February showed Clinton leading Sanders 55-34 among Democrats in the state.
Jennings closed out the Clinton event urging political peers to get out and knock on doors, saying "we can't take anything for granted." He urged his comrades to "Talk to five people. Ask each one of them to talk to five more."
Both Democratic candidates have New York roots: Sanders a native son who moved to Vermont in the 1960s, while Clinton put down hers in 1999 when she moved here to run for the U.S. Senate. She lives in Westchester County with her husband, the former president.
Voters have until Friday to register in order to participate in New York's primary.