Volume 20, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Feb. 8 - 14 , 2008

Barack or Hillary? Tribeca voters torn by tough choice

Downtown Express
photo by Troy Masters

Hillary Clinton celebrated her New York primary victory Tuesday night in the Manhattan Center Studios.

By Julie Shapiro

A strong crop of Democratic presidential candidates means a tough choice for New Yorkers in the voting booth.

Jadah, who cast her ballot at P.S. 234 on Greenwich St., said the decision was so hard she almost started to cry. For the first time, she said, there were several exciting options. Ultimately, Jadah relied on her “deepest, deepest heart and deepest, deepest conviction” to select Barack Obama. Still, she said, she doesn’t want Hillary Clinton to lose.

Jadah, a dark-haired woman with an airy voice who declined to give her last name, got her wish: After Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses in 22 states, the Democratic race is still a toss-up between Clinton and Obama. As expected, Clinton carried New York, receiving 57 percent of the vote to Obama’s 40 percent. In Manhattan, the margin was slightly smaller, with Clinton receiving 54 percent to Obama’s 44 percent.

Clinton collected 127 delegates from New York and Obama picked up 87, giving Clinton a slight overall lead with a total of 823 delegates to Obama’s 741, according to CNN. To cinch the nomination, a candidate needs 2,025 delegates.

At Tribeca’s P.S. 234, an unscientific sample of voters explained how they made their choice. Like Jadah, many had a tough time deciding.

“I’m so torn because so many people don’t like Hillary, but I love her,” one woman said. Still, she decided to vote for Obama because she thinks he has better chance of winning the general election. “I also think he’s got maybe a better soul,” she said. “But [Clinton] is so smart and so dedicated.”

Beth White also struggled between Clinton and Obama, but settled on Clinton.

“I think Obama has a good vision, but I’m not sure he has what it takes to execute it,” White said. “I’m idealistic, but we need a level of pragmatism to get things done. Hillary knows how to play the game.”

White is hoping that Clinton will pick husband Bill for secretary of state, so the former president can “leverage his relationships and restore credibility and reason,” she said.

Of the 20 people who spoke to Downtown Express outside P.S. 234, 12 voted for Obama and eight voted for Clinton. Many declined to give their name. No one said they voted Republican, not surprising in a borough where Democrats casting ballots Tuesday outnumbered Republicans 13 to 1.

One of those Democrats was Joey Netter, a young woman who said she is actually a Republican but switched her registration for the primary so she could vote for Obama. “He’s the only one who’s going to bring a fresh start,” Netter said. “I don’t want anyone from the past.” She plans to switch her registration back to Republican, but she hasn’t decided which candidate or party will get her vote in the general election.

On the Republican side, John McCain won New York with 51 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney, 28 percent, Mike Huckabee, 11 percent, Ron Paul 6 percent, and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had dropped out of the race and endorsed McCain, 3 percent.

McCain’s margin was even higher in Manhattan, where he captured 59 percent of the vote. In the Republican winner-take-all primary, McCain netted all of New York’s 101 delegates.

Nationally, McCain is over half the way to sealing the nomination, with 680 delegates to Romney’s 270, Huckabee’s 176 and Paul’s 16, according to the CNN.

At P.S. 234, one blonde, middle-aged woman arrived to vote but because she was walking her beagle, she wasn’t allowed in. She said she planned to vote for Clinton, then knelt down by her dog and crooned, “You’re voting for girl power, aren’t you?” Standing back up, the woman said, “I like her healthcare plan.”

Clinton has campaigned as the candidate with experience, a characterization that enticed several Tribeca voters. Diane Krukowski picked Clinton for her knowledge, and besides, “She can walk the walk,” Krukowski said.

“She’s been tested in battles of national politics,” said another middle-aged woman who voted for Clinton. “She will do better in the general election against a Republican.” The woman paused, then smiled broadly. “And I think it’s about time we had a woman president,” she said.

Nearly everyone who said they voted for Obama listed change as the reason.

“I think our country needs change, and for the rest of the world to believe we want a change, he’s the best person to vote for,” one woman said.

Moses Ukejianya, an architect and a Tribeca resident, took the day off from work to distribute flyers encouraging people to vote for Obama. “He has fresh ideas,” Ukejianya said. “He’s thinking about the new generation. We’re done with the past — we want to move on.”

Barry Hirsch, also an Obama voter, thinks Obama is the only candidate who can restore America’s reputation abroad. And Hirsch should know — he’s lived out of the country for the past 16 years, launching TV stations across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“The way the U.S. is viewed abroad is at a critical stage,” Hirsch said. “Obama will engage more countries.”

A man with a long gray beard, wearing “Veterans for Peace” buttons, supports Obama for one reason: “He says he’ll stop the war,” the veteran said.

A white-haired woman picked Clinton based on predictions that McCain will win the Republican nomination. But she isn’t optimistic about either Clinton or Obama’s chances of beating McCain. “I don’t think anyone will vote for a woman or a black man in the end,” she said. “They say they will, but they won’t.”

As evidence, the woman pointed out that millions of Americans voted for George W. Bush in 2004. “They’re from a different planet,” she said of the Bush supporters. If McCain wins the general election, the woman vowed to leave the country.

Later Tuesday morning, on the A train, a swaying evangelist was preaching about sin and damnation to a reluctant crowd, when he made the mistake of saying that women should be subservient to men. One woman, seated near him, shook her head and clucked her tongue. “Watch out,” she told him. “We’re gonna elect Hillary Clinton and then she’ll be in charge of you.”

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