Hillary Clinton kicked off her New York campaign at the storied Apollo Theater in Harlem Wednesday, taking the stage to shouts of “Welcome home, Hillary!”
The Democratic presidential candidate told the filled-to-capacity cultural center that she would deliver where primary rival Bernie Sanders could not. She contrasted the city’s and state’s embrace of its many cultures and creeds to what she denounced as discrimination by Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
“Our diversity is a strength, not a weakness,” Clinton said. “New York represents the best of America, and together we can face down the worst.”
Meanwhile, GOP presidential candidate John Kasich campaigned in outer Queens, fielding questions at an MSNBC town hall forum and greeting customers at a pizzeria.
New York’s primary is April 19.
“I take a backseat to no one in taking on income inequality,” Clinton said of Sanders’ key issue. “I know how hard it is to close that gap, to rebuild the middle class, but I’ll tell you this, it’s also important to take on racial inequality.”
She cited reforms to the criminal justice system and increased access to college as means of combating systemic racism. Clinton leads in polling and popularity among minority voters.
She emphasized her roots in New York, where she served two terms as a U.S. senator. She lives in Westchester County and her national campaign headquarters is in Brooklyn.
The former secretary of state, who leads Sanders in pledged delegates (1,243 to 975) and in New York polls, stressed that her solutions are grounded in practicality.
“My opponent and I share many of the same goals,” she said. “But some of his ideas on how to get there won’t pass, others just won’t work because the numbers don’t add up.”
Clinton said she can deliver, pointing to her successful push as senator for the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
The message was echoed by surrogates such as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and supporters in the audience.
“She just makes sense. She doesn’t make these lofty promises,” said Courtney Taylor, 32, an attorney from Queens.
Kasich, the governor of Ohio, trails real estate mogul Trump and Cruz, a U.S. senator for Texas, in national polls but persists in his long-shot bid to secure the GOP nomination.
“I love New York, it’s like having a transfusion into life when you come here,” Kasich told about 180 New Yorkers at a Catholic church in Howard Beach for the MSNBC forum.
Kasich responded to New York-centric questions on terrorism and storm recovery response in the wake of superstorm Sandy, but also used the hourlong appearance to make the case that he remained a viable candidate for delegates to consider at this July’s GOP national convention.
Asked about his plans to prevent future terrorist attacks against New York City, Kasich said “we need to destroy ISIS in the air and on the ground,” and said the United States needed to form a coalition with its Arab state allies from the Gulf War.
Kasich later greeted customers and dished out slices of pizza to patrons at nearby Gino’s Pizzeria. He was joined by former Congressman and Queens Republican Chairman Bob Turner, and Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich.
“We love New York and I don’t consider it anybody’s domain, I think it’s the people domain,” Kasich told reporters when asked about campaigning in Trump’s home state.