The campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination came to Albany on Thursday, with supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama holding rival rallies as they opened regional campaign headquarters to prepare for the Feb. 5 state primary.
The Obama event came first with Albany Councilwoman Carolyn McLaughlin holding the ribbon and her colleague, Corey Ellis, cutting it at 92-94 Lexington Ave. That’s in the West Hill neighborhood, which is in Ellis’ district. Also on hand was Douglas Bullock, an Albany County legislator, who gave this reason for his endorsement: “Clinton voted for the Iraq war and Obama didn’t.”
Elizabeth Navran, an Obama delegate and Albany Law School student, said, “The campaign resonates among young people” in a big way, and Obama is popular among students in the Capital Region.
The Clinton office opening was at 123 South Pearl St., between downtown Albany and the South End. County Executive Mike Breslin was there and said, “This is not ceremonial; this is business, baby.”
Regional director Tracy Brooks said the Clinton campaign will have rallies, phone banks, house parties and “lit drops,” meaning door-to-door canvassing where brochures are left with residents. The Civil Service Employees Association and New York State United Teachers unions are providing phone-bank support, Brooks said.
The Obama campaign also will do phone calls, rallies and canvassing, organizers said. A noon rally is scheduled for Feb. 2 at Townsend Park in Albany. The Clinton campaign also plans an event on that date.
Brooks said she had resigned Jan. 18 as a Clinton Senate staffer, joined a law firm and is working for the campaign as a volunteer. She has been mentioned — including by Breslin — as a potential candidate for Congress this year to succeed incumbent Rep. Mike McNulty, D-Green Island, who is retiring. Brooks declined to comment on that possibility.
Other Clinton supporters in attendance included state Assemblyman Jack McEneny, D-Albany, and city Treasurer Betty Barnette. Clinton is supported by the state’s Democratic Party leadership, including every statewide elected official.
Matthew Walter, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said the campaign of Rudolph Giuliani has been running volunteer phone banks out of state headquarters in Albany targeting voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida. That site will open up again next week, he said.
However, while Walter said the state GOP is confident Giuliani can win Florida, he declined to say whether the state’s Republican establishment might switch support to another candidate if he does poorly there. The former New York City mayor has come nowhere close to winning any primary or caucus so far but is hoping for a win in Florida on Tuesday. Walter said the campaign and state Republican leaders will assess the situation after that.
Giuliani used to be ahead in opinion polls, but has been overtaken nationally and even in New York by Arizona Sen. John McCain. In Florida, polls show McCain and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, leading the Republican pack.
New York is a winner-take-all state for Republicans. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another GOP candidate, is likely to focus on other states in the Feb. 5 “Super Tuesday” voting.
Steven Vasquez, Saratoga County coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign, said supporters of that anti-war Republican candidate have been holding rallies for months, including one with 100 people at the Capitol in October. That’s about three times larger than the crowds at the Clinton and Obama events Thursday.
The Paul campaign is targeting conservatives, Vasquez said. That makes sense since only Republicans can vote in New York’s Republican primary, whereas in many other states any registered voter can participate in a party primary. Paul is a Republican congressman from Texas.
Paul has radio ads running on WGY, and Vasquez said the campaign plans to run local TV ads, too, before the primary.
Anton Konev, another young Obama delegate, said the local campaign is raising and spending its own funds, not relying on the national headquarters. Any national campaign money that does show up, he said, would likely be spent in the New York City area, where the great majority of the state’s Democratic voters live. Local radio ads are planned, he said, but local TV may be too expensive.