By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Some Clifton Park residents who caught the Donald Trump rally in the Times Union Center in Albany April 11 on TV might have recognized a familiar face in the crowd. Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett and his sons attended the crowded rally Monday and were able to score primo seats, almost directly behind Trump.
Barrett said he’s encouraged that his sons have taken an interest in national politics. “My sons have been following this campaign season very closely,” he said.
Commenting on the rally’s demographics, Barrett said a significant portion of those in attendance were under 25 years old. “The energy in the room was palpable,” he said, adding “People were in a celebratory mood, very positive and friendly.”
Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger captured video footage of an altercation at the rally which showed a young black man being shoved in the face by a young white man. It’s important to note that about 15,000 people were estimated to be in attendance, though an exact number is unclear.
“The differences in the presidential candidates this year is stark,” Barrett said. “This reality sparks a great deal of emotion, but clear differences will establish a distinct direction for the country,” he added.
Asked why he thought Trump’s message resonated with upstate New Yorkers, Barrett listed job loss, concerns regarding drug use, national trade deals and the public’s concern regarding the size of the nation’s military.
Commenting on the public’s concern about the country’s employment rate, Barrett said, “It is more than a loss of jobs over the years in Upstate New York. More critically, it is the loss of careers.”
On the topic of drugs, Barrett said, “The drug culture continues to expand and the heroin epidemic is real. From my own perspective, I am disheartened to witness the general lack of seriousness within our country regarding drug use and I take it personally when I hear of another local person that has succumbed to illicit drugs. We hear from experts on a regular basis about the vast flow of heroin entering the country and many people want a leader to attack the problem with definitive action.”
The Clifton Park Supervisor compared Trump and democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, saying, “Interestingly, although Trump and Sanders hold polar opposite views on basic economics they agree on several issues that are resonating with many people.” He added, “In my view, it is very easy to explain why the two candidates do not agree on basic economics. Capitalism and Socialism are very simple to understand.”
Capitalism and Socialism may be simple to understand but in this case the distinction is a bit more nuanced — Sanders is a self-proclaimed democratic-socialist, not a socialist.
Halfmoon Town Supervisor Tollisen, a Republican, agreed that this year’s election cycle is “quite exciting.”
“I cannot remember a time in our recent history when New York was considered to be such a hotly contested state for the presidential primary on both the democratic and republican sides.”
While Tollisen didn’t attend any of the rallies held last week he said many of his friends did. “It is certainly great to see so many people interested in the political process, asking questions, and actively debating the candidates who are still running and their views.”
Tollisen said he was still undecided April 13, though he said he planned to vote in the April 19 primary.
Clifton Park Town Councilwoman, Republican Amy Standaert said, “The emotions involved in this current political climate are palpable, and people who don’t normally engage in political discussions are not holding back.”
She continued, “The increasing debt is a perilous situation to our country’s health and safety. Without strong, fiscally responsible policies and controlled spending, our government will be unable to provide for our most vulnerable or protect us against threats to our security.”
Standaert said she would support whoever received the Republican nomination.