NEW YORK — Voters across New York are casting ballots in presidential primaries that could be pivotal for both Republicans and Democrats.
New York is home to both parties’ front-runners, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. Democrats are choosing between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, while Republicans are deciding among Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
While registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 2-to-1 in New York, many voters on both sides of the aisle have something to say about Trump. And some are calling this primary the toughest choice they’ve had to make at the polls.
Here are some voters’ thoughts on the candidates in this extraordinary election:
James Hammond, a retired government worker and registered Democrat, said he intended his vote for Sanders as a vote against Clinton. “Come the general election I’ll be voting for Trump,” Hammond said outside his polling place in the Albany suburb of Bethlehem.
Hammond sees the economy as a top issue.
“My daughter’s 24 years old, and all her guy friends, peers, they all work minimum-wage jobs. They share an apartment, two or three of them, because that’s all they can afford. There’s no good-paying jobs.
That’s the number one priority in this country, along with security,” Hammond said.
“I think Trump is offering people the opportunity to work for a living as opposed to being on the dole,” Hammond said.
Marialyce Lyons, who has a pet-sitting and dog-walking business, said she would have voted for Clinton if Sanders weren’t running. “But I think she’s been entrenched in the establishment a little too long.”
After voting for Sanders in the Albany suburb of Bethlehem, Lyons, 53, said she likes his economic policies. “Someone in my situation, I don’t think I need that much help. I’m late middle-aged, established, I have a good business going. I have employees working for me. But I think there are a lot of other people who do need help. That is what I see Bernie doing, maybe leveling the playing field a little bit.”
Lyons acknowledged that Sanders might face an uphill battle if elected.
“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult, but I’d at least like to see someone give it a try,” Lyons said. “He has been for the last 20 years completely unwavering in his message, and I really admire that.”
Natalie Insalaco, a travel agency owner, voted for Trump.
“It’s about time to have somebody in there who’s not beholden to anybody. The current people who are in there are bought and paid for,” Insalaco, 61, said after voting on Staten Island.
She hopes the billionaire businessman can “do something to get the economy back on track,” and she likes Trump’s oft-stated refusal to be politically correct.
“He may not have a lot of finesse,” she said, “but what he says is right on target.”
Christopher Brock voted for Clinton , but the choice was “the toughest decision I’ve had to make in a primary in my entire life.”
“I believe in a lot of what Bernie says. I believe that there is a problem where our system is corrupt,” said Brock, 47, a Manhattan attorney and military veteran. “However, I think Hillary is the better candidate.
“I believe there is value in her being first lady,” he said, noting that she “watched it all happen for eight years” before becoming a U.S. senator and secretary of state.
Eugene Dewaters, a New York City transit worker, voted for Kasich.
“He’s the most qualified person,” he said, citing the Ohio governor’s experience in Congress and the statehouse. He considered voting for Cruz, but considers Trump “too extreme.”
“I have grandchildren, and I don’t want a third world war,” said Dewaters, 61, who voted on Staten Island.
He cited provocative comments Trump has made about women and his proposal to ban foreign Muslims temporarily from ent ering the U.S.
“You should screen people, but it’s wrong to keep any one religion out of the country,” Dewaters said.
Jose Mellado, who works in the music business, voted for Sanders.
“For once, I feel like there is a candidate who is genuine, really on the side of the people, he really cares about people,” Mellado, 32, said after voting in Brooklyn.
He said he likes Sanders’ passion and positions on human rights, immigration and Wall Street.
“I think you shouldn’t just vote for the person who you think is going to win – it’s not fantasy baseball, where you’re trying to pick the team most likely to beat everyone else,” Mellado said. “You should vote for the person who you believe most in.”
James Drzymala voted for Cruz in suburban Buffalo.
Drzymala, a computer programmer at the University at Buffalo, is looking for a president “who can get the country back on track. It seems like we’re running amok.” He sees the Texas sen ator as an outsider and appreciates his conservatism.
Drzymala says he’s happy Trump got into the race and understands his appeal – up to a point.
“He has a lot of good one-liners but doesn’t have much depth,” the 52-year-old Drzymala said. “He’s not convincing me.”
Bob Rogers, a computer programmer, and his wife, Mary Rogers, a homemaker, considered switching their Democratic registration to Republican so they could vote against Donald Trump. But the Staten Islanders missed the deadline for switching parties.
Mary Rogers, 55, said she considered Clinton the better qualified Democratic hopeful and voted for her. But her husband cast his ballot for Sanders, put off by Clinton’s paid speeches to big banks – “the money she took from ‘Government Sachs,'” he quipped.
The Rogerses said their children, college students in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, are also split between the two Democratic candidates.
Mary Cummings tried to vote for Trump in a Buffalo suburb Tuesday but found out at the polling station that she’s registered in the Right to Life Party, not the GOP.
She’s drawn to Trump’s criticism of trade agreements and his vow to build a border wall at Mexico’s expense, and she feels the billionaire businessman knows how to create jobs.
“That’s what he does, so I think he’s proven that,” she said, adding that “he exposes a lot of corruption in Washington.”
Eager to vote in her first presidential primary, Leah Bartnik drove 70 miles from college in Rochester to get to her precinct in the Buffalo suburb of West Seneca just before polls opened at 6 a.m.
Bartnik, 21, would have liked to vote for Sanders but didn’t change her registration from Republican to Democratic in time to do so. She cast her ballot for Cruz, mainly “because he’s not Donald Trump.”
She’s excited by the buzz surrounding this year’s election and the popularity of candidates seen as non-establishment.
On campus at the Rochester Institute of Technology, “all people want to talk about is the outsiders and how they factor in,” the imaging science major said. “Me and my friends, none of us has ever voted before.”