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Hillary Clinton touts record during Staten Island speech

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters Sunday,

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters Sunday, April 17, 2016, during an appearance at the Great Hall in Staten Island where she vowed to not raise taxes on the middle class if elected. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton and her surrogates underscored her eight years of U.S. Senate experience serving New York as well as her commitment to unifying the country across party lines in remarks Sunday before a cheering Staten Island crowd.

“I will, anywhere, anytime, meet with anyone to find common ground,” the former U.S. secretary of state said.

Clinton roused about 1,000 supporters who stood wall-to-wall in the Great Hall at picturesque Snug Harbor. The cultural center and botanical garden is on the borough’s North Shore, a Democratic pocket of the only New York City congressional district held by a Republican.

New York’s primary is Tuesday. Clinton, who is also a former first lady, is leading the Democratic race in polling numbers and pledged delegates.

Clinton said she worked alongside Republicans in passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and even thanked former President George W. Bush for funds to rebuild the city after the terrorist attacks.

She said she would continue her bipartisan approach in the White House, previewing an appeal to Republican voters in November’s general election against the GOP nominee.

Without mentioning him by name, she criticized Republican front-runner Donald Trump — who also stumped on Staten Island on Sunday — as a candidate bent on dividing the country. The crowd booed when she spoke of proposals by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another GOP presidential candidate, to surveil Muslims.

“What I absolutely worry about is deliberate efforts to set Americans against each other. That’s especially important. In this city and state we are a diverse group of folks,” Clinton said. “We all don’t look alike, we all don’t sound alike, we all don’t worship alike.”

Clinton made several references to Staten Island’s culture, economy and history, saying the Statue of Liberty in nearby New York Harbor has welcomed countless immigrants. She also spoke of the many Staten Island first-responders lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

Clinton told the crowd that as president she will help the borough’s many small businesses and support its working class.

“I will not raise taxes on the middle-class — at all,” she vowed. “There’s plenty of money in rich people’s pockets.”

Earlier Sunday, Clinton spoke at rallies held by her campaign in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, and at a Mount Vernon church in Westchester County.

Speakers warming up the crowd before Clinton’s appearance referenced the dueling events Trump and the Democratic front-runner held in the borough Sunday.

“That means we’re in play,” state Assemb. Matthew Titone (D-Staten Island) said, adding the borough should be known for its spirit of inclusion.

In the crowd, Deborah Evans, 58, said no candidate — Democrat or Republican — should take the borough’s votes for granted.

“Staten Island has a reputation for being the ‘forgotten borough,” said Evans, of Bulls Head. “To have the front-running candidates here shows it’s not forgotten.”

Evans, an employee of the city Department of Education, said Clinton is the “best qualified for the first day on job” because America’s middle-class deserves such help as federal tax relief.

Her son, Emmanuel Baker, 17, is too young to vote in the primary or the general election but said he backs Clinton over Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, who gathered thousands of young people for a rally Sunday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

“I like both of them, but she’s more of a take-action kind of person,” Baker said. Clinton told the audience that they must hold her accountable for her promises. “I will be coming back to Staten Island when I am your president,” she said.

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