Presidential campaigns beckon in New Hampshire this weekend, and much of Western New York’s Democratic establishment is answering the call.
Local supporters of Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and other presidential candidates are heading east for the nation’s most intense current politics as Democrats compete in the New Hampshire primary for the right to face President Trump in November.
In the unique politicking that marks New Hampshire and its first-in-the-nation primary, some of Western New York’s best-known Democrats will be ringing doorbells and making phone calls along with the thousands of other volunteers working the Granite State this weekend. County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz will be among them in Keene on behalf of Warren, possibly staying through Monday before keeping an Albany appointment during his return trip on Tuesday.
“I’ll be spending a few days campaigning as a surrogate,” he said Thursday. “That means talking to groups, rallying the troops, and even doing some canvassing myself.”
While New York Democrats united behind favorite daughter Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort in 2016, they are diffused throughout the field in 2020. Poloncarz is backing Warren, but his chief of staff – Jennifer L. Hibit – works for Biden.
Assemblyman Patrick B. Burke of Buffalo is also on board with Warren, while several local volunteers will stump for Sanders.
Poloncarz noted that while much of the Erie County contingent will sit together in Manchester at a Saturday evening 100 Club banquet sponsored by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, they will all have spent the day working for different candidates.
“Every few minutes I hear of more people going over,” said Cheektowaga Councilmember Bryan Nowak, who is not traveling this weekend but is helping to direct the local Sanders efforts. “It will be all about the basics – knocking on doors, getting out the vote, and manning the campaign office.”
Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner is also making the trip on Friday, and though he is a close Poloncarz ally, has not yet committed to a candidate. Many other party leaders have also yet to declare their allegiances, possibly waiting for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to announce his choice.
“I’m going over to support their state committee and make some contacts,” Zellner said. “I haven’t made any decisions. I think it’s wide open right now, and I’m excited about the next few months because New York could be in play.”
New York Democrats will cast their presidential primary votes on April 28.
Zellner said local Biden supporters working in New Hampshire include party attorney Margaret A. Murphy and former Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan. Chautauqua County Democratic Chairman Norman P. Green is also expected to volunteer in New Hampshire this weekend.
Poloncarz pointed to his own long history of working the New Hampshire contest beginning in 2000 for former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley. He said he still enjoys the personal touch marking the New Hampshire tradition that can get lost in bigger communities like Buffalo. New Hampshire Democrats ask questions, he said, and delve into topics ranging from Medicare to day care to climate change.
“I’ve been there before and I know how it works,” he said. “They’re used to talking and meeting the candidates.”