Good afternoon. On this sunny Wednesday, New Yorkers Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were about 10 miles apart in Nassau County as they returned to places providing perfect backdrops for their messages.
Clinton addressed the state Democratic Committee convention at Hofstra University in Uniondale, praising women running for office, citing Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul but not an actress also seeking a spot on the state ticket. Clinton then accepted a bouquet of flowers from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, whom she endorsed.
Meanwhile, the president convened a round-table discussion on gang violence and the threat of MS-13 at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage. White House planners were surprised at the small space, and the Nassau County fire marshal restricted the crowd to about 200 people. There were more Democrats crowded at the snack bar at Hofstra trying to get lunch.
Media access was limited at the event, organized by Rep. Peter King, with just a TV camera providing a video feed and network TV correspondents complaining about the backdrop for live shots. Still, as Clinton told Democrats that she was happy to be at Hofstra, where “I won” the debate with Trump, the president hammered away on the anti-immigration message that made him a winner.
LI pols in a bind over Trump visit
For some local political figures, deciding whether to attend the President Donald Trump-led discussion on gang violence in Bethpage on Wednesday presented a tricky calculus, as they knew from his last visit to the region to discuss the subject.
Although the majority of the significant MS-13 violence on Long Island has been in Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini did not attend. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart did, as did Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who got a shout-out from Trump. Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas did not attend.
In July, Trump spoke to a crowd at Suffolk County Community College that included local and regional dignitaries but was made up mostly of uniformed police officers. His pledge to stop MS-13 and its murderous violence in its tracks, in a community where the gang has killed as many as 20 people in the past two years, was universally well-received. But when Trump gave the cops in the audience his permission to start roughing up those in their custody, many of the officers responded with cheers. That caused agita for elected and appointed law enforcement leaders.
Officials were forced to denounce Trump’s statements and the Suffolk County Police Department tweeted: “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.”
So the potential to be a prop at some unexpected and unacceptable statements from Trump just by attending his event was on the minds of the local officials who did attend, and those who did not. So, too, was the potential political fallout from not attending, and being portrayed as unserious about MS-13 violence, or of prioritizing politics over gang violence.
“I called them ‘animals’ the other day and was met by rebuke,” Trump said about his description of MS-13 gang members. “They’re not people. They’re animals,” he reaffirmed again on Long Island.
Nearly everyone at the table was eager to echo that description.
The Cuomo Show
From the beginning, the New York State Democratic Committee convention was Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s show.
It was a Cuomo lovefest to the point that Bishop Nancy Rosario, who gave the invocation, slipped in some praise for the governor. He delivers “change,” she said, and “has not neglected the people.”
Cuomo also got early shout-outs from the podium from party vice chair Christine Quinn as well as Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York chief Gary LaBarbera. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, it was displayed by Quinn and LaBarbera, who both used PowerPoints to underscore Cuomo’s successes. LaBarbera’s deck included a succession of bridges.
Hillary Clinton, of course, endorsed Cuomo at the convention at Hofstra University.
There was plenty of pageantry at this year’s gathering in what can be a sleepy event. Giant screens in the David Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex displayed the words “Moving Forward.” Blue balloons hung at the ready.
Backers of gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon got some formal time when her supporters put her name in for nomination. That included a speech by Nixon’s former Hunter College High School teacher.
But not to be outdone, Cuomo’s name was put in both by his mother, who said Andrew and his father were “best friends,” and Bronx Assemb. Marcos Crespo, who passed the mic to a Parkland, Florida, student and other young people affected by gun violence.
Soon the long roll call began, with delegate after delegate saying, “Andrew Cuomo,” or, once, “To Andrew with love.” Cuomo received 95 percent of the weighted vote.
By that time, Nixon, who came to work the crowd, had taken her lanyard off her neck and exited the room. Her trip into the “lion’s den,” as one spokeswoman put it, was over.