The Bronx has become a backdrop of choice for campaigning presidential candidates this cycle, playing host Thursday to both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John Kasich.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) visited the Parkchester-Soundview section Wednesday and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) choose the South Bronx as the site of a massive rally last week.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said of candidates flocking to the Bronx, “but I also understand that whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, people are seeing us as the symbol of a national turnaround. And in America, the one thing that we do love is the comeback story.”
Though Brooklyn is home to both Clinton’s national campaign headquarters and Sanders’ New York campaign office, more White House hopefuls have so far stumped in person in the Bronx than any other borough. (Republican real estate mogul Donald Trump has not had a public event in the borough.)
The state’s primary is April 19.
The Bronx has overcome its past and reputation as the “symbol of urban decay,” Diaz said, citing a boom in residential development, a steep drop in crime and the creation of new jobs.
The borough president escorted Clinton, the former secretary of state, as she rode the No. 4 train for two stops from Yankee Stadium, mingling with commuters. Clinton struggled briefly with her MetroCard, swiping five times before she could gain entry.
Meanwhile, Kasich, the Ohio governor, made a campaign stop farther north in Belmont, downing several Italian dishes.
David Greco, owner of the Arthur Avenue Italian Deli where the long-shot candidate dined, said the Bronx may be a popular stop because it’s seen as “a community of hardworking families.”
The owner of the Munch Time Diner in Highbridge, where Clinton drank tea and sat down with NBC’s Matt Lauer, said he was surprised but pleased when he was asked Wednesday night to host her.
“Munch Time is a landmark out here,” Achilles “Laki” Polygerinos said. He suggested candidates may be in the Bronx to earn votes from working-class New Yorkers. He said his staff of Bronxites hailed from all over the world, but, “We’re all American.”
Christina Greer, a Fordham University associate professor of political science, said the borough was a natural choice for Sanders’ rally because “the Bronx just has a feeling of activism.”
But she pointed out the sheer size and cultural and economic diversity of the borough means it can represent different things to different candidates.
With Laura Figueroa