Two weeks before New York’s presidential primary and special election for the 9th State Senate District seat, former President Bill Clinton visited Elmont on Tuesday to campaign for his wife, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that she was the right choice over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is also seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination.
“This election in so many ways, psychologically, is coming down to New York,” Clinton said to several hundred people at the Vault Café on Hempstead Turnpike. “We’ve got to send a message to America that Hillary was our senator, she delivered in New York … If you think what she did as senator, imagine what she could do as president.”
Clinton noted the record turnout for the 2008 New York primary, when Hillary and President Barack Obama were fighting for the nomination. Unlike 2008, however, the 2016 presidential primary on April 19 coincides with the Senate race, the most important in the state this year.
State Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Republican opponent Chris McGrath, an attorney and Hewlett Harbor resident, are battling to fill the vacant seat previously occupied by former state senate majority leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted of federal corruption charges in December.
Clinton lauded Kaminsky at the event, citing his record as a former federal prosecutor and member of the Assembly, saying that he has passed more legislation than any other freshman legislator in the state.
“I want you to go out there and elect him; this is really, really important for the future of New York state,” Clinton said. “This guy, he embodies what this election is really all about — there’s a big difference between talking and doing.”
Supporters of both Clinton and Kaminsky were in attendance, including U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs and Long Beach City Councilman Scott Mandel. Kaminsky announced his support for Hillary before introducing former President Clinton.
“On April 19, we have some very important choices to make that are going to determine the future of our state and our country,” Kaminsky said. “When I think of what our country needs, we need someone who’s going to get things done and get things accomplished. There’s one person in the race who can do that and that is Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
Clinton touted Hillary’s record during her time as a U.S. senator representing New York and later as Secretary of State, and highlighted her specific plans in his first of three stops around the state on Tuesday, before heading to Buffalo and Rochester.
In addition to her plans to replace lead pipes across the country — a reference to the current water crisis in Flint, Mich. — support small businesses and provide equal pay and paid leave for women in the workforce, Clinton said that Hillary believes all Americans, including undocumented people and Muslims, must come together as a nation.
“Look at this crowd,” he said. “If we had this meeting 30 years ago on Long Island, this crowd would look remarkably different … our diversity is our strength.”
Clinton added that making college education affordable is critical for young people in America today. He said that while it may sound great to provide everyone free tuition, the aim should be to ensure that students graduate without debt. College debt is the only loan in America that you can’t refinance, Clinton said, adding that Hillary’s plan would allow students to pay off their loans as a fixed percent of their income.
Supporters from around Long Island came out to show their support for Hillary on Tuesday.
“I think she is the most qualified candidate this country has ever seen,” said David Brett, 26, of Port Jefferson. “I think she’s the only one who cares about starving children around the world, who can really move forward with climate change and who can really step in and help this country where it needs to go.”
“I think she is an amazing, capable women as we have seen and there is nobody else who can really pull this together,” added Nancy Barreno, a Nassau County legislative aide from Westbury. “I think it’s also time now that the United States finally choose a woman president. Eight years ago it was not her time, but now it’s her time.”
Others, primarily Haitian activists, protested outside of the event, and demanded to know what was done with the $6 billion collected for relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Clinton Foundation, which led fundraising efforts for the recovery, has been the target of such protests for months. Queens resident Natalie Turner was among them, and claimed that the money never “trickled down to the masses.”
“She is only running for president because she’s an egomaniac; she’s an ambitious woman, this is all about her, she wants her place in history and that’s all,” said Turner, who is supporting Sanders. “She represents the 1 percent.”