Politics matter, the rules matter, and now Buffalo matters

By Jesse PR Prieto
News Editor

“The rules matter” is a saying drilled into the mind of every Canisius College political science student. For Buffalonians, and Western New Yorkers in general, this became especially true as the Wisconsin Primary results came in late Tuesday night. For the first time in 16 years,  New York’s primary voters will play a crucial role in deciding who will represent their party in the general election this November.

Residents of the Empire State will be heading to the ballot box on April 19, and with no clear winner thus far, candidates are scrambling to connect with grassroots organizations, venues, and ultimately the voters, in a state that is traditionally ignored. Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders emerged victorious earlier this week, pushing the Republican Party further towards an open convention, and keeping former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from breaking out ahead of her competition.

Sanders and Cruz walked out victorious last tuesday, causing both front-runners to work that much harder to clinch the party’s nomination. With neither front-runner having clinched the party’s nomination, New York’s 95 Republican delegates and 247 Democratic pledged delegates have become vital in the race.

The five standing candidates have already begun carving out territory for themselves across New York’s 27 congressional districts. Why? Because the rules matter.

Unlike most Republican primaries after March 15, New York is does not have a “winner-take-all” system. Unless a candidate receives an outright majority over 50 percent, the delegates at stake are split between first and second place. Erie County, made up of the 26th and 27th Congressional Districts, offers three delegates each, for a total of six.

In the case that no GOP contender attains a majority, the first place candidate will receive two delegates and the second place candidate, one. It should be noted that three candidates make this possible, because a battle between two would always result in one candidate achieving the majority. Though some are doubtful that an open convention will occur, the possibility that the the front-runner could win New York while still hemorrhaging delegates makes the primary vote all the more vital for all parties involved.

The state offers similar opportunity for Sanders and Clinton over the next two weeks. With 247 pledged delegates divided between the State’s 27 Congressional Districts in proportion to population, and with Sanders being born in Brooklyn and Clinton serving as United States Senator from New York for eight years, the two candidates are gearing up for a heated battle. Moreover, while New York is traditionally a Democratic state during the general election, the possibility of Donald Trump receiving the Republican nomination means that New York may be contested again come November. Not only are the Vermont Senator and former Secretary of State battling for the Democratic nomination, but they are also laying the groundwork for maintaining the party’s stronghold in the state for the general election.

While rumors tend to run amok this time of year, it has been confirmed that Hillary Clinton will in Buffalo on Friday April 4, at the Pierce Arrow Museum. Donald Trump has also announced that he will be holding a rally at the First Niagara Center April 17, just two days out from voting on April 19. According to WBEN, Bernie Sanders will be holding a rally at the University at Buffalo on Monday, April 11, weeks after a petition was circulated urging Sanders to make a stop in the Queen City ahead of the primary.

Political Analysis: Playing the field, it’s any man or woman’s game

Political pundits point to the 2000 election season as that last time New York had a real say in the either party’s nomination. After all, because of the voter weight brought by New York City, which is primarily Democratic, there is little doubt that New York will vote “blue” (for the Democratic nominee) when it comes to the general election. However, since the state holds a closed primary with no same-day registration – meaning only pre-registered Republicans can vote for the Republican nominee – every vote really does count. Although the general tone of reporting has suggested that current front-runner Donald Trump’s victory may be inevitable, the aforementioned “rules of the game,” in combination with Tuesday’s results, mean that this race will go down to the last delegate, and maybe even then some. In the Republican camp, candidates are quickly trying to establish connections with local organizations in a fight for votes that none expected.

Local businessman and elected official Carl Paladino has been vocal about his support for Donald Trump since December, a sentiment that seem to be shared by much of the Erie County Republican Committee. House Representative Chris Collins landed time in the national spotlight briefly in February as the first Congressman to openly support the political outsider, a notion that was soon followed by the current ECRC chairman Nicholas Langworthy in early March. Whether because of conviction, or political opportunism, the Republican establishment in Western New York has sought to make the area an easy landing ground for the GOP front-runner.

Governor John Kasich continues his press for the Oval Office despite his loss in Wisconsin, a decision received well by Erie County Legislator and Canisius College Professor Dr. Kevin Hardwick, and New York Assemblyman Ray Walter. After showing support for the moderate underdog all spring, Hardwick and Walter joined forces with former ECRC Chairman Jim Domagalski at the Cheektowaga Veterans Center. He is the “adult in the room” Walter explained, arguing that his experience as a congressman and governor make him the best qualified by far. Hardwick agreed, adding that Trump losing Wisconsin makes a contested convention this summer all the more probable. While the rumor mills have suggested that big-name GOP establishment types like Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney would be thrown into the mix at the National Convention, Hardwick suggests that the party will pick the Ohio Governor because he has “been through the gauntlet” and would make a lot more sense than someone who did not run in the first place.

Cruz, who successfully took Wisconsin with 48 percent statewide, adding 36 pledged delegates to his total, which now sits at 505, has yet to announce rally dates in Western New York. However, according to campaign strategists, he is likely to devote attention to upstate New York in the Adirondack area. Many accredit the bulwark of his campaign to the “evangelical” vote, which has a substantial presence in Erie County. In an attempt to confirm the peddled message that Cruz will continue to carry the Republican Evangelical vote in New York, The Griffin reached out to John Wrobleski, senior pastor at the evangelical Steel City Church in Lackawanna. He admitted that the race lost his attention when Rand Paul dropped out, but continued to explain that his read on the Western New York evangelical community is likely to vote Cruz due to a strong distaste for businessman, Donald Trump.

Josh Hamlin, lead pastor of new covenant, was clear when stating his disappointment in the options this political season. As a general policy, he has made a point not to endorse or condemn any candidate, but had repeatedly said from the pulpit that any candidate reflecting impulsiveness, anger or hatred does not reflect the love of Jesus Christ. He continued to say that the “evangelical” vote will surprise people “especially in Western New York.” Hamlin added that “true evangelicals” rest on the hope of “Jesus Christ and the power of his message and presence among us.”

On the Democratic side, the constituent base is as evenly divided in Western New York as it accross the country. The millennial vote, which has surpassed expectation and played a major role in the Vermont Senator’s success, is clearly evident across the “younger” areas of the city, most notably Allentown and Elmwood Village. Moreover, the support for UB’s student population, an institution that boasts a student body of nearly 30,000, offers fertile ground for the Senator to make a substantial impact in the area.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has maintained support from the Democratic establishment. The open support from Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, and her close friendship with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has given her in-roads to the community. An example of the quick mobilization that these relationships offer came up on Tuesday, April 5 when her husband, President Bill Clinton, spoke to a packed room in Depew, New York.

In the midst of a campaign cycle that has already shattered the expectations of many, the City of Buffalo has found itself thrust into the national spotlight. With attention from nearly every candidate, it is clear that Western New York will be a highly contested battleground.

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