So many New Yorkers are running for president

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand launching her 2020 presidential campaign.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand launching her 2020 presidential campaign.
Scootercaster/Shutterstock
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand launching her 2020 presidential campaign.

So many New Yorkers are running for president

Eight candidates have some roots in New York.
May 6, 2019

Those all-important Midwestern voters may despise coastal elites, but that isn’t stopping a slew of New Yorkers from running for president. In a field that includes a main list of 24 high-profile, major party candidates, five are at least partly from the Empire State, including both Republicans. A sixth is expected to announce a run for the Democratic nomination within the week. Another is exploring an independent run, while an eighth is seeking the Green Party nod. This comes on the heels of a 2016 election, in which both major party candidates made their homes in New York.

Here are the seven major candidates with significant ties to New York who are probably running for president, and one honorable mention.

President Donald Trump

Although his state overwhelmingly voted against him and the city he still calls home largely hates him, Trump is a lifelong New Yorker. Raised in swanky Jamaica Estates in Queens, the son of a major developer of outer-borough housing, Trump and his family were mainstays in the New York City tabloids long before he became a conservative, a Republican or political candidate. Even if his influence on local real estate has been overstated, he was a local celebrity before he went national and he still owns many properties in the city and its northern suburbs – some of which have become a source of political embarrassment and scandal. Speaking of embarrassment and scandal, Trump has brought a whole cadre of cronies from New York to the national spotlight, including his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, son Don, Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner and brought back former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for a turn as his attorney. Despite all those connections, Trump still has pursued policies, including his tax bill and his refusal to fund the Gateway tunnel, that have been unfavorable to his hometown.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

Of the New Yorkers running for president this cycle (he technically hasn’t announced yet but will reportedly do so this week), de Blasio is arguably the New Yorky-ist. After all, he’s the mayor of New York City. It’s not the state’s capital, but to most of the rest of the country, it might as well be. De Blasio has lived in the city nearly his whole adult life, sent both his kids to public school and served on his local school board before becoming a councilman, then public advocate and eventually mayor. But despite being born in the city and moving back for college at NYU, de Blasio was raised in Massachusetts. He still roots for the Red Sox and has never attended a Yankees game as mayor. And he eats pizza with a fork. Of course, the New Yorker currently in the White House did the same thing when he took Sarah Palin to a Familglia in Times Square – about the least authentically New York pizza experience imaginable.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand, unlike de Blasio, actually grew up in New York state. She was born and raised in Albany, the actual state capital. Her grandmother, Dorothea “Polly” Noonan was a shrewd Albany political operator in her day. After completing law school, Gillibrand spent over a decade at different Manhattan law firms, before returning to her upstate roots to run for Congress. She may not sound like a downstate New Yorker, the way Trump does, but she’s as native to the state as anyone.

Andrew Yang

This longshot entrepreneur running for the Democratic nomination he represents both New Yorks: he was born and raised in the upstate city of Schenectady, but later moved to Manhattan, where he lives now with his family.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Although he hightailed it out of New York for good in 1968, in favor of Vermont, where he has lived and made his political career ever since, Sanders still carries with him that undeniable Brooklyn accent and blunt-spoken New York City sensibility. He has even remains loyal to the Dodgers, who moved out of the borough to Los Angeles when Sanders was just a boy, because of the impact the team had on him and Brooklyn as a whole. With his Brooklyn, Jewish, working-class, immigrant roots, there are those who argue that Sanders is the true New York candidate in the wide field.

Howard Schultz

Despite relocating to Seattle, the homebase of his Starbucks coffee empire, Schultz likes to wax nostalgic during interviews about a possible third-party run about his childhood growing up in a housing project in Canarsie, Brooklyn. (His childhood friends and neighbors tend to disagree with his characterization of the community as rough and poor, most considering it generally middle-class.)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld

Weld, the only major Republican challenging Trump, brings some Long Island pride into the mix of New York presidential candidates, having been born in Smithtown. Weld’s family line goes all the way back to the Mayflower and the original British colonists in Plymouth. He grew up in a luxurious estate in Smithtown. But he attended high school at a boarding school in Massachusetts, and that’s where he made his career in law and politics after Harvard Law School. After his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, Weld moved back to Long Island and ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in New York in 2006. He has since returned to Massachusetts.

Honorable mention: Howie Hawkins

The perennial Green Party candidate may have been born in California, but he chose New York to try to make his environmentally conscious political mark. He has long lived Syracuse, where he has become a familiar face. He has reportedly run for office in New York 24 times over 26 years, including for senator, governor and Syracuse mayor. Hawkins has never won. But now he’s considering adding “presidential candidate” to that list.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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