Drumming up support ahead of New York’s April 19 primary, former New York U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton campaigned in Westchester County Thursday. Though she was flanked by a number of staunch supporters, some students in the audience made it known they back her Democratic rival.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rallied inside the Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase, saying it was on the campus more than 16 years ago where she announced her run for the U.S. Senate. Now, with her eyes on a primary win in her home state and just more than five minutes into her speech, a number of students who support Clinton’s rival in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, walked out, after yelling “She wins, we lose.”
“Oh, I know, the Bernie people came to say that. We’re very sorry you’re leaving,” Clinton said.
As her supporters chanted “I’m with her,” Clinton’s voice grew louder.
“You know, wait, before, can I just say this? As they’re leaving I want to say I have earned 9 million votes in this election already. I have 1 million more votes than Donald Trump and I have 2.5 million more votes than Bernie Sanders.”
“But I’ve talked to some of the young people and I’ve told them, look, you may not be supporting me but I’m supporting you. I will work for you. I will fight for you,” Clinton said. “I just wish that there were an opportunity to actually talk and listen to each another because we got to unite, when this primary contest is over, we’ve got to unite and make sure we have a Democrat in the White House in January.”
Many Sanders supporters did stay throughout the rally. One was SUNY Purchase student Derek Sherry.
“While we may not agree — there are a bunch of Bernie supporters here, this is a very pro-Bernie campus — we don’t agree with everything she says, but I think it’s still a very cool thing that a presidential candidate can come to our campus and speak,” says Sherry. “And I personally wrote a petition for Bernie Sanders to come to Purchase and speak, and it’s been getting a lot of signatures.”
That change.org petition, as of April 1, had 656 signatures with a goal of 1,000. Sherry responds to why he supports Sanders.
“Because he’s honest. That is honestly the most important thing I can think of in a candidate,” says Sherry. “For the past three decades, he has never, I don’t think he’s ever changed his tune.”
SUNY Purchase student Juliana Brill also cites honesty and consistency of message as reasons why she supports Sanders. She stayed for all of Clinton’s speech.
“I personally am a Bernie Sanders supporter, but I think it’s important to hear what other candidates have to say because there’s a chance that Hillary Clinton could be our next president and I want to be informed where she stands, where her policies are,” Brill says.
Clinton highlighted some differences between her and Sanders, such as when it comes to healthcare and free college. Sanders pitches free tuition at public colleges and universities. Clinton, however, proposes free community college and making public colleges and universities debt-free.
“I just have a fundamental disagreement. I am not going to ask you and your tax dollars to pay to send, for free, people from wealthy families,” Clinton says. “If wealthy families can pay for it, I think they should. I do not believe we should be paying for free college for Donald Trump’s grandkids.”
Monica Powers-Meade, a retired New York City principal who lives in Rockland County, says seeing Clinton in person was exciting.
“I just love her message and what she’s going to do to help the middle class that are really struggling, and really breaking down barriers to help people’s minorities, so it was really a great day,” says Powers-Meade.
She says Democrats will have to come together in the end and voiced respect for Sanders and his supporters.
“We respect Bernie Sanders. I respect and value his message but, at the end of the day, Hillary is results oriented. And she will get the job done,” says Powers-Meade. “Bernie has wonderful ideas and messages and moving the Party to the left and he’s very progressive in his thinking but, at the end of the day, she has the steady hand and she’s electable.”
Hours after the Clinton event, Sanders held a rally in the South Bronx.