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NY presidential primary could be competitive, some Democrats say

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, left, and, Sen.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, left, and, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argue a point during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Michigan-Flint on Sunday, March 6, 2016, in Flint, Mich. Credit: AP / Carlos Osorio

The Democratic presidential nomination race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders still could be competitive by the time it reaches New York’s April 19 primary, some Democrats and the Working Families Party said Wednesday.

Jay Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic Committee chairman and a close ally of Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, said, “I always thought it was going to be a competitive race.”

Bob Master, co-chairman of the Working Families Party that backs Sanders, said the Vermont senator on Tuesday once again tapped into voters angry about wage stagnation and the established economic order to upset Clinton in the Michigan primary.

“His message is going to resonate really powerfully here, and I think we are going to have a really competitive campaign,” said Master.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), a member of the House Democratic leadership and a Clinton backer, doubts the race will be a squeaker in New York, though.

“New Yorkers know Hillary as their senator who worked for them every day,” he said. “Also the make-up of the primary electorate in New York isn’t the same as Michigan or Iowa.”

In Michigan and Iowa independents could vote in either primary. Only registered Democrats can vote in New York’s Democratic primary.

The delegate math also tips in Clinton’s favor. She leads in the delegate count. By the time the New York primary rolls around, nearly 60 percent of Democratic delegates will have been chosen. Many will be up in Ohio, Illinois, Florida and 11 other primaries and caucuses during the next five weeks.

Yet Master cautioned against conventional wisdom.

“What Michigan proved is that anything can happen in this campaign,” Master said. “It’s really hard to predict what will come of the next five weeks.”

Jacobs said he expects both the Clinton and Sanders camps to campaign in New York, though he said he wasn’t sure they’d spend money for expensive TV ads.

Master said the Working Families Party is working to get out the vote for Sanders.

Jacobs said a template for the map of where Sanders could mount a challenge to Clinton in New York can be found in the 2014 Democratic primary between Zephyr Teachout and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Clinton should do well on Long Island, which leans moderate, Jacobs said. But he expects Sanders to win votes in the Hamptons area on the East End, and in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Teachout won more than half the vote in about two dozen counties, mostly upstate, New York Board of Elections figures show. But in the end, Cuomo won 63 percent of the vote to Teachout’s 33 percent.

Jacobs said a competitive primary might even help Clinton, since it would ensure some news media attention that otherwise would be dominated by Republicans.

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic national committeeman and Clinton supporter from Great Neck, said a contested presidential primary would help the Democrat in “the super bowl of state legislative elections.”

That’s the special election on April 19 pitting Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) against Republican attorney Christopher McGrath of Hewlett to replace former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a race with the majority of the State Senate in the balance.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stepped around the question about the New York primary’s competitiveness, saying he thinks Clinton will win the nomination but declined to hazard a guess about which candidate will win New York.

Schumer said that “a Democrat” will win the presidency in what he predicted will be “a strong Democratic year.”

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