Manolo Santiago voted for Hillary Clinton in the April 19 Democratic primary, saying "we need a woman."
By Roberto Capocelli. Manolo Santiago voted for Hillary Clinton in the April 19 Democratic primary, saying “we need a woman.”

Despite grassroots support, Sanders comes up well short in Democratic primary

Bronx voters overwhelmingly came out for Hillary Clinton in the April 19 Democratic presidential primary. Clinton tallied 58 percent of the New York state vote to defeat Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, on Tuesday, with about 95 percent of the votes counted.

The margin of victory was larger in the 15th congressional district, which includes Hunts Point and Mott Haven, than anywhere else in the state. With 95 percent of the votes counted in the district, Clinton had 72 percent of the votes—a total of 48,554, to Sanders’ 18,905.

In the Republican primary, billionaire Donald Trump cruised to victory as expected, pulling in nearly 60 percent of the vote statewide and 62 percent in the 15th congressional district. The native New Yorker tallied a mere 600-some votes in the borough, but that was good enough to stomp Texas senator Ted Cruz, who finished a far distant second with fewer than 300 votes.

Melissa Martinez-Zeron said she always brings her daughters, including Sasha, 9, when she votes.
By Michael H. Wilson. Melissa Martinez-Zeron said she always brings her daughters, including Sasha, 9, when she votes.

A raucous rally for Sanders at St. Mary’s Park in late March drew nearly 19,000 supporters, raising excitement about the native Brooklynite’s populist appeal, but when the votes were counted there was little drama in the results.

A Melrose mother of two, Melissa Martinez-Zeron, brought her children along with her to cast her vote at the Nina Marciulli Community Center on Tuesday afternoon. She said she always brings  Sasha, 9, and Milani, 5, when she votes so they can learn the importance of civic participation.

“Every vote matters,” she said. “Every election matters. Everyone needs to let their voice be heard.”

Rufus Murchison, a 2013 John Jay graduate who works as a banker at MCU, said policing and jobs are issues he wants to see government focus on improving in Mott Haven.

“I don’t think the issues that I am concerned about are Democrat or Republican,” Murchison said. “This is about addressing the issues and actually doing something to solve them.”

Many voters had Trump on their minds. At the Macriulli center, Sherry Rios, 36, who said she votes during every election, said that this year her main motivation was to do whatever it takes to see that Donald Trump does not become president.

“When I think about Trump running for president, I think about that time when it was a joke on the Simpsons,” she said. “It was a joke when it was on TV, but now its kind of disgusting.”

At a senior center on 155th Street, one voter, Julio Garcia, proudly admitted he was among the handful of Bronxites who voted for Trump. “I think he is the one who can fix New York City,” Garcia said. “He is tough.”

By Roberto Capocelli. Julio Garcia voted for Donald Trump.
By Roberto Capocelli. Julio Garcia voted for Donald Trump.

But Grace Ilori, 32, felt the opposite. “We need somebody who is going against Trump,” she said. “The stuff that is coming out from his mouth is scary.”

Selva Pellerano, 75, said about Trump, “We don’t want a racist president.”

Stefania Peralta, a 24-year-old home attendant who has lived in the U.S. since she was six, said in Spanish that Clinton would have her vote—if she were allowed to cast it. “I can’t vote because I’m not a citizen,” said Peralta.  “If I could, I would vote for Hillary because she is different and she is a woman.”

Another voter, Manolo Santiago,  agreed with Peralta’s assessment, saying, “We need a woman.”

At Patterson Houses in Mott Haven, one voter said she was skeptical the next president would be able to reverse years of federal neglect of public housing that has led to nightmarish backlogs in basic repairs.

“I came here in ’54 and the difference between what we have now and we had then is like night and day,” said Rustin Evelyn, 83, who voted for Clinton despite her lack of enthusiasm. “They don’t do repairs. They don’t do nothing on time. Whether it’s Hillary or Bernie, I just want them to do what they gotta do.”

But another retiree at at the Patterson complex said he was enthusiastic about the possibility of a Clinton presidency.

“She’s the best candidate they have,” said Joseph Robbie Robinson, 69. “Hillary has done so much for this city. People need to wake up. They keep on doubting her. If there was something on those tapes, the government would have gotten her by now.”

At Mitchel Community Center across from the soon-to-be-former 40th Precinct station house, Eddie Castro, 58, walked out of the polling station, regretting having just voted as a Democrat. He added he’d vote for Trump if he wins the Republican primary. But although he thought Clinton was the “best candidate of all the candidates,” he had misgivings about voting for her in the general election in November. “She has the resume for it but she’s a woman,” he said. “She’ll make the country more soft.”

By Tiffany Moustakas. At Mitchel Houses, Maritza Melenciano, 55, declared "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary," as her candidate of choice. “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,”
By Tiffany Moustakas. At Mitchel Houses, Maritza Melenciano, 55, declared “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,” her candidate of choice because of her positions on immigration.

A 26-year-old voter at Melrose Houses, Vladimir Tobar, voted for Sanders. Tabor, a graduate student at City College, said the Vermont senator’s promise to make tuition for city universities free resonated with him.

At PS/MS 29 in Melrose, Stonie Harrison, 32, said she’d voted for Sanders. “He’s really for the people,” said Harrison. “He’s not backed by corporations, and he is the only candidate who has actually been supporting black people for decades with the civil rights movement. He doesn’t flipflop on issues, and he has been consistent for decades on what he stands for.”

But others in Harrison’s household were planning on voting for Clinton because they wanted to see the first female president elected. “They’re not voting based [on her] record,” she said. “Most of my friends who are into politics are voting for Bernie — they know what [Sanders] stands for and the issues he is talking about.”

For some, however, voting in the primaries was either a pointless gesture or an elusive aspiration. Angel Bonnano, a 45-year-old ironworker, has been out of prison already for 13 years, but said the application process for the formerly incarcerated to regain their eligibility to vote is so lengthy and complicated that he hasn’t bothered.

“I started the process over 10 years ago,” Bonnano said. “You have to give four years in employment records. You have to fill out the form and send it in and then it’s just a waiting game. The application process is at least an inch thick.”

Denrod Nelson, 24, said he has no intentions of voting. The only political coverage he followed was the Republican debate, and even then it was only because his father was watching it on TV.“The one I sat down to watch was the Republican debate. It was more of a circus than anything to be completely honest,” Nelson said.

Reporting by Tanvi Acharya, Khorri Atkinson, Roberto Capocelli, Joaquin Cotler, Victoria Edwards, Yuxin GaoHayley Lind, Suzanna Masih, Tiffany Moustakas, Karen Savage and Michael H. Wilson.

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