Tuesday was a busy day for former New York Senator Hillary Clinton. The presidential hopeful trekked from Manhattan, where she appeared with Governor Andrew Cuomo, up to Albany where she met with Democratic lawmakers, then on to Cohoes. At stake: 274 delegates in the April 19th primary.
The line at Cohoes High School was out the door and down the street, one enthusiastic supporter saying, "We are Hillarized!"
Inside, the gym scoreboard was set to 45-45, reflecting Clinton's intentions to become the country's 45th president.
Why Cohoes? State Assemblyman and former Cohoes mayor John McDonald explains. “Saturday morning I get a text. And it was like déjà vu 10 years ago. I got a call saying ‘We want Hillary Clinton in Cohoes,’ and as most of you know, she was here 10 years ago, fighting for our senior citizens when Medicare D rolled out. So it didn’t take me 30 seconds to say ‘We want her back here in Cohoes.’”
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy was first onstage around 5:30 to rally voters before introductions by a who's-who of Capital Region Democrats, including: Ex-Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari: "She is the best, she is the brightest. She does not overpromise. She delivers. Time and time again."
Assemblywoman Pat Fahy: "We need to recapture that Spirit of America, and this is the woman who knows how to get it done!"
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara: "She is the champion of the working class!"
State Senator Neil Breslin: "Hillary Clinton is the smartest candidate for president we have seen in generations!"
The intros and upbeat music fed through the p.a. system pumped up the crowd [SFX crowd], and then, around 7, an announcer introduced Congressman Paul Tonko and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "...and the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton!
Before Clinton took the mic, Tonko and Gillibrand welcomed her. "She's been there throughout a career, fighting for America's families," exclaimed Tonko. "Hillary has never stopped fighting for us and we will never stop fighting for her," Gillibrand shouted.
Once onstage, Clinton played to the mostly middle-class crowd. "Oh my gosh, it is so great to be in New York and to be up here in the Capital Region."
And down to business: Facing a tightening race in her adopted home state against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton pledged new jobs to fight climate change. She said she would fix infrastructure by creating jobs and boosting manufacturing across the nation. “I will be the president who brings manufacturing back to upstate New York, and America!"
She promised if elected, she'll strive, in the name of "growth and fairness," to get pay equity for women plus a nationwide hike in the minimum wage.
Under her watch, companies that received funding from federal, state or local governments would pay it all back as an "exit tax" if they moved operations out of the country.
Clinton also outlined her education plan, expressed support for teachers, and promised to make college affordable again. "I wanna work to get the cost down. So I am asking students to work 10 hours a week. Because if they do work at the college or university, that will help lower the cost. And then we can actually get the cost down for more people and that will help us send more to college. And I will pay for it by taxing the wealthy."
Clinton acknowledged Sanders has the same goal: "Now that means free for everybody, including Donald Trump's kids. I don't think we need to do that."
Under her plan, poor, middle class and "working" families would get free tuition. She further envisions capping student loans so they disappear after 20 years and allowing refinancing of those loans.
Clinton zeroed in on several issues dear to the masses: fallout from the Great Recession, citizenship, opportunities for people with disabilities, gun safety reforms, religious freedom and defeating ISIS. And she stuck it to Republicans whenever she had a chance. "So when Donald Trump talks about pulling out of NATO or keeping Muslims out of the United States or even abandoning our allies in the Pacific, that does not make him sound strong. It makes him sound like he's in over his head."
Clinton shared her ultimate goal: "I will get up every single day and work for the results that will make a difference in your lives. To keep us safe and to unify our country."
Clinton left an impression on the crowd. Mindy Whisenhunt of Niskayuna attended the rally with her 16-year-old daughter Kira, who is university-bound. "To finally see someone, a woman, getting this close to be president is really exciting and the fact that like she, can like talk about it so powerfully and stuff is just really inspiring to a lot of people." Mother and daughter are encouraged by Clinton's position on student debt and college education.
Michael Gray from Albany also likes the idea of affordable tuition and giving students opportunity to break down their debt. He thinks Clinton has what it takes to lead the nation. "I do think she needs to tap into some of the younger voters as well, I think that's a big component. That's why Senator Sanders, his strongest cohort is, but if she can resonate with those students, address the issues that they face, which is one of them she actually addressed today, which was college tuition, I think that she can be a force that unifies the party. After this week, we'll see what happens after New York."
Clinton and Bernie Sanders are poised to debate April 14 in Brooklyn. No plans for Sanders to campaign in the Capital Region have been unveiled yet.