New York’s primary is still two weeks away, but Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have already brought the full force of their campaigns to the Empire State, opening offices and staging town halls and rallies heralding the upcoming vote.
Clinton, as the race’s frontrunner and a former two-term U.S. senator from New York, has been able to rely on the endorsements of nearly every established Democrat in the state, among them Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York’s two most prominent political figures. She also has the backing of most of the state’s super delegates, party fixtures including (obviously) former President Bill Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer, who many predict will become the next Senate Democratic leader. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator, also endorsed Clinton.
Sanders’s supporters aren’t nearly as high-profile.
Luis Sepulveda, the Bronx Assemblyman who spoke at Sanders’s rally last week, told the New York Observer that he was opposed to Clinton’s support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bill Clinton’s tough-on-crime legislation, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the trade agreements of the 1990s.
“I’ve never really understood the Latino and African-American population’s fascination with the Clintons,” Sepulveda told the Observer. “All these things she’s supported I’ve found very disturbing.”
Sanders has also collected the endorsements of Bill Perkins and James Sanders, Jr., two popular state senators from Harlem and Queens, respectively. Perkins was also the first elected New York official to endorse Barack Obama in 2008. Rafael Espinal, a New York City councilman, echoed comments made by Sanders’s other endorsers that the Vermont senator is the best choice to make his constituents’ voices heard.
The state’s primary could make or break either campaign. If Clinton loses in New York, Sanders can claim victory in the second biggest Democratic primary of the season, in his opponent’s own home state. If Clinton wins, it will give her a delegate advantage Sanders can’t hope to recover from, all but finalizing her claim to the nomination.
As political commentator Van Jones explained during a recent interview with Democracy Now!, “New York City is the war to settle the score inside the Democratic Party. The Clinton forces understand there is a rebellion in this party. Under ordinary circumstances, it would already be over, because the big donors would have taken the checks back. There are no big checks. This is a people’s movement. They are going to have to bury this movement in New York City, and they know it.”
The latest polls show Clinton leading Sanders by 11 points in the state. In a closed primary like New York’s, only registered Democrats can mark a presidential preference — tougher conditions for Sanders, who has relied on his popularity with independent voters to bolster his polling numbers. Nevertheless, the Vermont senator started off more than 20 points behind Clinton in the state, and with two weeks of heavy campaigning ahead, a lot could change in the meantime.
Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni