ALBANY – New York’s upstate economy has shown uneven gains and, while New York City and its suburbs outpace the rest of the state’s job growth, it’s one of the most expensive places to live in the nation.
Voters across New York will head into Election Day on Nov. 8 concerned about the future of the state’s economy, issues of national security and immigration — as well as who is best to lead the country, Congress and the state Legislature.
In addition to the presidency, all 27 congressional seats, a U.S. Senate seat and all 213 posts in the state Legislature will be on the New York ballot.
The USA Today Network in New York interviewed voters across the state, and many of them offered tepid support for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
The election is unique for the state: Both of the presidential candidates live here and have long records here; Clinton as a former U.S. senator and Trump as a developer with properties through the city and the Hudson Valley.
Sara Lanfair, 18, of Owego, in the Southern Tier, said she’s voting for Trump, that immigration and job creation are her two biggest concerns as a first-time voter.
“I think there should be certain steps that people have to take,” Lanfair said of immigrants becoming U.S. citizens. “I definitely think anybody should be allowed to come over, but I think there’s a process to go about it.”
She, like some other New York Republicans, however, said they have grown weary of some of Trump’s rhetoric.
“While I do support his ideas, I don’t like how opinionated he can be sometimes. Because everybody has opinions, but I think it’s how you portray those,” Lanfair said.
Some voters talked about similar hesitancy with Clinton, who lives in Chappaqua.
Kam Coin, 25, of Yonkers, is leaning toward supporting Clinton, saying he’s found the overall tenor of the campaigns negative. He described Trump more or less as a “comedian."
“The only thing I can say about Hillary is she does have a long career in Washington that would probably make her a better president than Trump,” he said. “Hillary does have an upper hand with experience.”
New York’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths, but also presents one of its toughest challenges.
From mid-2009 through June, upstate’s largest job growth was in the Capital Region, followed by the Finger Lakes and the Buffalo area, a report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in August found.
But five regions of upstate lost jobs over the period — with the worst declines in the Mohawk Valley, where jobs were down 2.8 percent, and in the Southern Tier, where jobs fell by 2.5 percent, or 7,500 positions, over the stretch.
To put it more bluntly: New York City gained three out of four new statewide jobs from 2009 to 2014.
ob creation will be at the forefront of Jessica Gaspar’s mind when she votes for president.
As a Republican, she was hopeful that Marco Rubio, Chris Christie or Carly Fiorina would win the GOP nomination.
But now, with Trump, the 33-year-old Monroe County resident isn’t sure if she’ll vote for president at all.
She considers herself a fiscal conservative, but also supports gay rights and marriage equality.
“When Trump got it I thought to myself, ‘How am I going to do this?’” Gaspar said. “He is a loose cannon. We all know that. But he is the party line and that’s the issue where I am at now. I do not want to not vote, but I don’t want to waste my vote.”
Trump supporter David Greenwood, of Marlboro, drew comparisons between Trump and Ronald Reagan.
“If Ronald Reagan was running today, they’d be calling him a reality TV star, and that’s exactly what Donald Trump is. But he’s trying to show us he’s an outsider,” said Greenwood, 43. “He’s doing the things that resonate with middle America and Americans that are just displeased with the way this country has gone for 20 years.”
Greenwood, who cites the economy as a key issue he’s focusing on this election, said Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is often misunderstood.
“We do have a great country, but we’re not focused on fixing our problems,” he said. “How is it that we have $19 trillion in debt, and we’re looking outside of our country? How can we spend money on bringing refugees in when we can’t even take care of our own vets?”
A Siena College poll Sept. 20 showed Clinton had a 21 percentage-point lead over Trump in New York.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is seeking re-election to a post he was first elected to in 1998. His challenger is Republican Wendy Long.
The same Siena poll showed Schumer with a 46 percentage-point edge.
Democrats are hopeful that having Clinton at the top of the ticket will propel them to win control of the narrowly divided state Senate for the first time since 2008, and to pick up congressional seats.
Meanwhile, Republicans hold nine of New York’s 27 congressional seats, and several key ones in the Hudson Valley, Long Island and central New York are deemed competitive races.
Bob Ritter is frustrated with the nation’s two-party system.
So come November, Ritter, 57, of LaGrange, plans to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson for president, saying that voting for him will make a statement to political leaders.
Ritter, a self-described conservative and a registered Republican, said that fighting between Republicans and Democrats has gotten to a point that the country cannot function effectively.
“There are plenty of solutions,” Ritter said. “The problem, quite frankly, is not the lack of solutions. It’s the inability of our Congress and leadership to work effectively.”
Other New Yorkers also expressed displeasure between their choices of Trump and Clinton.
Alyssa Hoffmeier, 23, of Rochester, was disappointed to see Bernie Sanders leave the presidential race. She's unsure whether Trump or Clinton can adequately address the issues important to her, such as immigration and student debt.
Student debt in New York averaged $32,200 last year, double what it was a decade ago, a DiNapoli report last month found.
Hoffmeier, an enrolled Democrat, said she might vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein or write in Sanders’ name.
“It’s really unfair that we’ve been left with these two (Clinton and Trump)," she said. “A lot of young people have had their hearts broken.”
New York has twice as many Democrats as Republicans, and it would be a major upset if Trump can win the state. Ronald Reagan in 1984 was the last GOP nominee to do so.
Trump has made Clinton’s record as senator from 2001 through 2009 a campaign issue not only in New York, but nationally.
He cruised in New York during the GOP primary in April, helping him secure the party’s nomination. Clinton won the New York primary, beating Sanders 58 percent to 42 percent.
In late September, Trump knocked Clinton in a speech in Melbourne, Florida, about her pledge of 200,000 jobs for upstate New York when she first ran for the Senate in 2000. The goal was never met, and Clinton blamed the recession and Republican politics for the failed pledge.
Trump has seized on it.
“She promised, running for the Senate years ago, 200,000 jobs for upstate New York. It was a disaster,” he said. “Not only didn’t they come, but they lost so many jobs that you have to see it now. It’s so sad when you see what’s happened to upstate New York. It’s a disaster.”
Victor Berger, 77, of New City, charged that Clinton is part of a corrupt pay-as-you-go political system, and he supports Trump’s policies, such as cutting corporate taxes and strengthening the military.
On Trump, he added, "I agree with his ideas on immigration, on checking people when they come into the country to make sure they're eligible to come in."
Sam Beckenhauer doesn’t believe that Clinton is the perfect presidential candidate, but thinks she will be flexible if she’s elected.
“She’s not immune to pressure from her constituents, so I think she will ultimately make decisions and create policies based on that pressure,” said the Vassar College student and co-president of Democracy Matters on the Poughkeepsie campus.
Issues to watch
According to the Siena poll of 600 likely voters, a plurality of New Yorkers said jobs and the economy were the top issues for the next president, followed by national security.
The cities of Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo have among the worst poverty rates in the nation.
Sheryl Fuhrmann, 62, of Piermont, said she’s more comfortable with Clinton because of her foreign-policy experience as secretary of state and as senator.
"I think she can bring to the table that experience that Donald Trump lacks," said Fuhrmann, who added that Trump’s plan to build a wall with Mexico “isn’t the way the United States is."
The poll showed voters were evenly split between continuing the policies of President Obama or making changes.
For 24-year-old Democrat Monique Stone of Rochester, voting in presidential elections has been a matter of breaking down barriers.
In 2012, she cast her first presidential vote for Obama as the nation’s first black president. And this year, she intends to vote for Clinton as the first female president.
“As a woman, that’s very important to me,” she said. “I hope she can represent all the women in the country and really work on issues that are important to us.”
As a criminal-justice student at Monroe Community College, she’s also concerned about the relationship between police and minorities.
“Criminal justice, it’s really messed up, especially for the black men out here,” she said. “It’s a hard time for families.”
Suhailah Morgan, 36, of Binghamton, is a former Sanders supporter, and she’s now “softly supporting” Clinton. She’s unsure, though, heading into the final presidential debates.
“It wasn’t so much Donald Trump’s performance that made me change, it was that she finally seemed like she connected with the American public in a way that she wasn’t being so-called politically correct,” Morgan said.
Then there are new voters.
Molly Hawley recently turned 18 and still has to register to vote. The deadline is Oct. 14.
Hawley said she might vote for Clinton, but is still weighing her options, saying equal rights for women is one of her top priorities.
“I just started thinking about this,” Hawley said.
Includes reporting by Poughkeepsie Journal staff writers Geoffrey Wilson and Abbott Brant; Democrat and Chronicle staff writers Todd Clausen and Sarah Taddeo; Journal News staff writer Lee Higgins; and Press & Sun-Bulletin staff writer Maggie Gilroy.
How New Yorkers feel in 2016
The USA Today Network in New York asked voters across the state who they were supporting in the presidential election and what are the key issues for them heading into the voting booth Nov. 8:
“It’s my feeling that no one should have concern for voting outside the two-party system, and the basis for the vote is not to decide the election.”
- Bob Ritter, 57, of LaGrange, who plans to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson
“We do have a great country, but we’re not focused on fixing our problems. How is it that we have $19 trillion in debt, and we’re looking outside of our country?”
- Trump supporter David Greenwood, 43, of Marlboro
“She’s not immune to pressure from her constituents, so I think she will ultimately make decisions and create policies based on that pressure.”
- Sam Beckenhauer, a Vassar College student in Poughkeepsie, on supporting Clinton
“While I do support his ideas, I don’t like how opinionated he can be sometimes. Because everybody has opinions, but I think it’s how you portray those.”
- Sara Lanfair, 18, of Owego, who is backing Trump
“You need to do something to have a strong middle class, and that’s what she wants to do, and that’s why I want to vote for Hillary.”
- Rafael Chapine, 23, of Mount Vernon, a student at Westchester Community College
“It’s really unfair that we’ve been left with these two.”
- Alyssa Hoffmeier, 23, of Rochester, who may write in Bernie Sanders.
“He is the party line and that’s the issue where I am at now. I do not want to not vote, but I don’t want to waste my vote.”
- Jessica Gaspar, 33, of Hilton, who is deciding whether to back Trump
“I hope in this election what Hilary Clinton is saying about starting from the bottom and building up that way — instead of the top and hoping it falls down — hopefully that will happen.”
- Suhailah Morgan, 36, of Binghamton
“I hope she can represent all the women in the country and really work on issues that are important to us.”
- Monique Stone, 24, of Rochester, on supporting Clinton
"I feel he is an abomination to our country and the world. Anyone but Trump would be a better candidate and I'm sorry Bernie didn't make it.”
- Anna Zolner, 45, of Mount Vernon
"I agree with his ideas on immigration, on checking people when they come into the country to make sure they're eligible to come in."
- Victor Berger, 77, of New City, on supporting Trump
“I don't agree with building walls and keeping people out of our country.”
- Sheryl Fuhrmann, 62, of Piermont, who is supporting Clinton