Vice President Al Gore's strong showing in the presidential primary election in Queens last week may be a bellwether for the Democrats in November, political observers said.
Gore won a decisive victory over former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley in the primary, boosted by the strong support of the Queens Democratic machine. His likely rival in November, Texas Gov. George Bush, won the Republican Party primary easily, but he lost several delegates in Queens to Arizona Sen. John McCain.
The race for the presidency is still too close to call, but political observers are looking for some signs in the primary and some hints about how that contest may affect the U.S. senate race in New York.
"Gore's going to do exceedingly well," said Corey Bearak, a longtime Democratic activist from northeast Queens. "The way the numbers break in New York City, he will do considerably well."
Citywide, Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York City by a margin of more than 4 to 1. In Queens, the odds for Republicans are somewhat better, with the ratio of Democrats to GOPers at about 2 to 1. But for some of those conservative Democrats and Republicans who are Catholic, Bush's ties to the anti-Catholic views of Bob Jones University may hurt him.
"That will certainly have an impact on a certain number of voters," Bearak said.
The future of the Bush campaign in New York could also have a ripple effect on the U.S. senate aspirations of the Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is facing First Lady Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket. If the Republican Party assumes it will lose New York and turns its attention to other states, Republican turnout may suffer.
Giuliani attracted about the same number of votes in 1993, when he first won the mayoral election as in 1989, when he lost. But turnout among Democrats was low relative to Republicans in 1993, giving Giuliani the edge.
Another open question for the general election is how the borough's immigrants may vote. Asians and Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic groups in Queens, particularly in western Queens, but neither group has so far made a strong impact in electoral politics in the borough.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund conducted an exit poll at three polling sites in Flushing and one in Floral Park and found strong support for Gore among Asian-American voters, according to Glenn Magpantay, an AALDEF spokesman. The Manhattan-based non-profit group estimates that there are about 76,000 registered Asian-American voters in New York City.
Among Asian-American Democrats, who outnumbered Republicans by 2 to 1, 84 percent favored Gore over Bradley in the Democratic primary, preliminary survey results showed.
AALDEF's pollsters also asked Asian-Americans how they would vote in a U.S. senate race pitting Clinton against Giuliani. Asian-American voters of both parties picked Clinton by a margin of more than 2 to 1.
"It doesn't really surprise me," said Bryan Pu-Folkes, a Jackson Heights attorney and founder of New Immigrant Community Empowerment. "There's been a lot of press attention, a lot of negative attention about this administration's relationship to people of color."
Clinton's emphasis on education could also play well with Asian-American voters, for whom education is traditionally a crucial electoral issue.
In southeast Queens, Gore scored an overwhelming primary victory, winning about 78 percent of the vote over Bradley. He benefited from the mobilizing efforts of the southeast Queens Democratic establishment, which promises a similar boost for Gore and Clinton in the general election.
"The mayor was not reaching out to the black community," said Clifton Stanley-Diaz, president of the Rochdale Village Civic Association. "They have grave reservations about him."
©2000 Community News Group
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