Former president Bill Clinton on Saturday made the case for electing Hillary Clinton president, in a campaign push ahead of Tuesday’s crucial New York Democratic primary.
“She is the candidate best-qualified to bond us together rather than tear us apart,” Clinton said during a half-hour speech to the state’s Rural Democratic Conference at The Desmond, intended to get voters out to support his wife on Tuesday.
Clinton portrayed the economy of the nation and of upstate New York as still recovering from the 2008 recession, and said the nation’s problems need to be “thought through,” and the country shouldn’t simply “stumble ahead.”
“We still need to keep bringing manufacturing jobs back to upstate,” he said.
Clinton was barnstorming across upstate Saturday in support of Hillary Clinton, who is in an unexpectedly tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Colonie appearance was the first of four he was to make across the state on Saturday.
“She is not just the best change-maker now just in the race, but the best change-maker I’ve ever known, and there’s not a lot of time to waste now,” Clinton said.
Clinton reminded the crowd that both Clintons have spent time upstate. They settled in Westchester County after his presidency, as she ran for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2000. Hillary Clinton visited communities across the state while campaigning for Senate.
“She was never happier in her life than when she was working as the senator from New York,” Clinton said.
Bill Clinton, who was president from 1993 to 2000, offered a vision of government on his wife’s behalf that says there’s a need to rebuild infrastructure like the Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia airport, and to find new incentives for corporations to share their wealth with workers, as a way of addresses the rising level of income inequality in America — the central theme of Sanders’ insurgent campaign.
“We know what works. What works is shared prosperity,” Clinton said.
Higher education should be affordable through a mortgage-like long-term loan, he said. He said government needs to take on the spread of heroin abuse and what some people have termed an epidemic of youth suicide. “It’s really a public health problem,” Clinton said.
He told the crowd that Tuesday’s primary will be as crucial as Election Day, and that electing Hillary Clinton over a Republican candidate will be important to the nation’s future.
“The future of the country is on the line. The future of the Supreme Court is on the line,” Clinton told about 900 people gathered in the conference center’s ballroom.
Clinton later appeared at “Get Out the Vote” rallies in Watertown, Syracuse and Binghamton.
The Clinton event was the latest in an unusual series of events that has seen all five major party candidates for president appear in the Capital Region in the last two weeks, rallying supporters ahead of the primary. Hillary Clinton was at Cohoes High School on April 4.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is trailing in the Republican race, will appear at a town hall event at the Schenectady Armory at 6 p.m. Monday, after visiting Albany, Troy and Saratoga Springs last week.
One Sanders supporter in the crowd said he believes the income inequality issue wouldn’t be as prominent in the campaign if Sanders weren’t running.
“It’s great listening to President Clinton, and we need a Democrat elected, but I believe Bernie is the right guy,” said Eric Kingson, who is running for Congress in central New York’s 24th Congressional District.
The vast majority of the crowd, however, were supporters of Hillary Clinton, and applauded and chanted as a series of speakers including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised both Clintons before Bill Clinton spoke.
“I think the theme of compassion and being neighbors again resonated with me because we’re seeing a lot of divisiveness, even among Democrats,” said Patricia Nugent of Saratoga Springs, who attended in a T-shirt that said “Bill Clinton for First Lady.”
“I’m a nurse, so I understand when he says it’s easy to diagnose, but it’s harder to come up with a solution,” said Diana Dwire of Cayuga County, one of those attending the two-day Rural Democratic conference.
Introducing Bill Clinton, Cuomo praised Hillary Clinton for her willingness to be pragmatic to solve people’s problems.
“Her orientation is always the same, how can be we get things done,” said Cuomo, who like most mainstream Democratic leaders is supporting her. “Not theoretical abstract, how do we get things done.”
Cuomo served in President Clinton’s cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development.
Gillibrand recalled being inspired as a young lawyer by Clinton’s advocacy of worldwide women’s rights. “The greatest mentor in my life is Hillary Clinton,” Gillbrand said,
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, firstname.lastname@example.org or @gazettesteve on Twitter.