For the first time in years Queens matters in the presidential primaries.
In recent memory, New York City had been a foregone conclusion every four years when the big races rolled around. The favored Democrat blitzed the challengers and the Republicans’ small Queens numbers were barely a blip in the overall results.
But 2016 has ushered in a new era, thanks to the maverick candidacies of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and businessman Donald Trump, as more Queens residents tune into the unorthodox presidential politics. And the candidates have been compelled to drop in on Queens as the April 18 primary approaches.
Last Saturday Bernie—a Brooklyn native by way of Vermont—rolled into LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City and joked that “Queens residents see Brooklyn as a foreign nation.” He said his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, was becoming nervous because he had just piled up an impressive string of primary victories.
As for Hillary, she visited Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica Sunday—a cordially required stop for Democratic White House hopefuls years—as her husband Bill stumped for her at the New York Hall of Science, touting her pro-immigration record.
The next day she met supporters at the Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights, where she criticized Trump for “potentially undermining the safety of our people” with his divisive attacks on Muslims.
As for Trump, he waxed poetic about his Queens roots despite not having held a campaign event—yet —in the borough. He told a Sunday rally in Bethpage, L.I. (across the border), “Driving over here I passed through Queens. I love Queens, I grew up in Queens.”
Last week he named two Queens Republicans to run his borough campaign, but the focus was on John Haggerty. A GOP operative who went to jail for stealing $750,000 from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to buy his father’s house in Forest Hills, Haggerty was hired by Carl Paladino, the former gubernatorial candidate who is heading up Trump’s operation in the state. His role is not known.
Haggerty and Trump were no-shows at the Queens County GOP’s annual dinner at Terrace on the Park Monday night, where Republican contender Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi appeared—without Ted.
Of course, John Kasich made his mark in Howard Beach by eating pizza with a knife and fork—a de Blasio gaffe—before the parade of other contenders followed him to the borough.
Queens is happy to be on the must-call list. Weigh your choices and get out to the polls next Tuesday where your primary vote will count for a change.