Hillary Clinton claimed a major a victory in New York on Tuesday night, notching a much-needed win in her home state following eight straight losses to rival Bernie Sanders. With 9 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton led Sanders 58-42 percent.
Clinton managed to stand her ground in New York, the state she represented for eight years in the Senate. She and her husband have lived in Chappaqua, New York, since leaving the White House and the former president set up his foundation offices in Harlem. But it was touch and go for the campaign after a rough month on the trail, with Sanders sweeping from victories in mostly Western states over the last few weeks and gaining on her in New York in some polls. Clinton's last win was nearly a month ago in Arizona on March 22 — the same day Sanders won Utah and Idaho.
Clinton addressed hundreds of supporters in the ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel Times Square on Tuesday night, thanking her home state for her big victory there.
"Today you proved once again there's no place like home," she said to applause. "New Yorkers you've always had my back. and i've always tried to have yours. It is humbling that you trust me with the awesome responsibilities that await our next president. And to all the people who supported Senator Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides."
Clinton said Tuesday that the Democratic race for the nomination is "in the home stretch and victory is in sight," highlighting that her campaign has earned 10 million votes in 2016, more than any other candidate, Democrat or Republican. "But I am going forward because more voices remain to be heard," she said.
Clinton was introduced by her husband, as well as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New City Mayor Bill De Blasio and others.
De Blasio, who like Sanders has described himself in the past as a proponent of democratic socialism, praised Clinton on Tuesday night as a "progressive," as the race between the two Democratic presidential candidates has grown increasingly heated.
"New York, you did something wonderful today for America. It's been a long time since New York was the center of political attention in America. It's been decades and you know what, you got it right!" he said.
"New Yorkers remember and New Yorkers are loyal," Cuomo said in his own remarks. "Hillary delivered for us and tonight we delivered for Hillary Clinton."
Clinton will widen her 200-delegate lead over Sanders on Tuesday night, taking at least 104 of New York's delegates to Sanders' 85 — a gap that will be extremely difficult for the Vermont senator to close in upcoming states. Four out of five of the states holding elections next Tuesday are closed primaries — considered unfriendly territory for Sanders, as they preclude independents and unaffiliated voters from casting ballots.
Her victory Tuesday comes amid allegations of voter suppression in New York, where many voters — largely Democrats — accused the state board of elections of changing or losing their voter registrations, preventing them from voting in the primaries on Tuesday. A new watchdog group, Election Justice USA, filed an emergency lawsuit on behalf of more than 200 voters over the issues.
Related: [New Yorkers File Emergency Lawsuit Over Voter Registration Problems on Primary Day](New Yorkers File Emergency Lawsuit Over Voter Registration Problems on Primary Day)
New York had 291 Democratic delegates on the table this election cycle — but only 163 pledged delegates will be locked down once Tuesday's results are finalized. An additional 84 pledged delegates will be formally selected at the state party's spring convention on May 24, awarded proportionally based on the results of today's primary. Clinton has already secured the support of 40 of the state's 44 superdelegates, including members of Congress and other elected officials, who can change their mind any time before or at the national convention in July.
In the critical days leading up to the primary, campaigning on the Democratic side was fierce, with both candidates tearing into each other in both media interviews and at a hot-blooded debate in Brooklyn last week. After debating over which candidate had called whom unqualified to be president, Sanders rapped Clinton for hosting a $34,000-a-seat fundraiser with George Clooney, and Clinton ripped into Sanders over an interview with the New York Daily News, in which he failed to provide specifics on how he'd break up the big banks.
On the eve of the election, Sanders hit Clinton with accusations of breaking campaign finance laws and using funds from a joint fundraising committee, meant to benefit not only her campaign but several state parties and the Democratic National Committee, as a secondary campaign account.
Clinton's camp fired back with a scathing reply hours later, calling the accusations "irresponsible and poisonous" in an email to supporters.
"This latest incident is part of a troubling pattern of behavior — occurring just as Bernie's mathematical odds of winning the nomination dwindle toward zero," Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook wrote. "It's hard to see how anyone — other than Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — benefits from this downward spiral of irresponsible and baseless attacks."
"Right about now is when we ought to be talking about coming together as a progressive movement, not undermining a generation of voters' faith in the Democratic Party and in the woman who is almost certain to be its nominee," Mook added.
Sanders vastly outspent Clinton in New York, hoping for a win and staking a lot of his campaign on the state. But as Clinton continued to hold leads of anywhere from 6 to 18 points ahead of Tuesday's election, his campaign downplayed their ability to win. "We don't have to win New York on Tuesday," campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote in an email to supporters over the weekend, "but we have to pick up a lot of delegates."
The Sanders campaign also argued at rallies in New York — some which drew up to 28,000 — that the state's closed elections system would make it a "tough primary" to win. That's because nearly 3 million independent voters, who were not registered with either the Republican or Democratic Parties by the state's early deadline of October, 2015, were unable to vote in Tuesday's election. A large portion of political independents come from the same voting bloc that makes up Sanders's largest base of support: millennials.
Sanders played up his Brooklyn roots as he campaigned in New York City and throughout the state, highlighting his childhood as the son of working class Polish immigrants and his time at James Madison High School in South Brooklyn. And on Tuesday afternoon, voters flooded into Sanders' alma mater to vote in the primaries, though not all were there to support their home-borough candidate.
Mark Mikhly, 29, a physician who grew up in the neighborhood and lives right next door to James Madison High School, said that he voted for Sanders on Tuesday, calling the senator the "first progressive Democrat that has run in a long time."
"Unfortunately a lot of people didn't know who Bernie was here until recently, o it may have taken a while for people to warm up, especially since Hillary's better known in New York," Mikhly said after casting his ballot. "I think he came in swinging and I think a lot of people are listening to what he has to say. New York's ready for Bernie."
Mitchell Granovsky, 20, voted for the very first time on Tuesday and also cast his ballot for Sanders. Granovsky, who graduated from James Madison High School in 2013, is also a child of immigrants (his parents came to the US from Azerbaijan). Like 25 percent of Sanders' supporters in a recent Monmouth University poll, Granovsky said that he would not vote for Clinton under any circumstance.
"I'm not voting in the general election unless Bernie's involved," he said. "This will be my only vote for the election if he doesn't win today."
Sanders, who was campaigning in Pennsylvania and did not remain in New York to watch the results come in, addressed the New York loss in an email to supporters just after 11pm on Tuesday night. "We didn't get the victory we had hoped for this evening," he wrote in an email, but emphasized that the 85 delegates he's likely to take from New York are the most he's earned in any single state thus far. Of course, New York had more delegates up for grabs than almost any other state in the country.
Sanders put emphasis on California primary, the largest election in the Democratic race, which will dole out 546 delegates on June 7.
"Five important states vote one week from tonight, with more delegates at stake than Hillary Clinton led by coming into tonight," Sanders wrote. "And if we do well next Tuesday, we remain in a position to take the pledged delegate lead when almost 700 delegates are up for grabs on June 7."
The candidates will face off next in five primaries on the east coast on April 26, including the four closed primary states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Independents will be able to participate in Rhode Island's unique modified closed primary system, however, which allows unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot but requires those registered as either Democrats or Republicans to vote within their own party's primary.
Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields
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