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Hillary Clinton Campaigns Upstate Ahead Of New York's Primary


With New York's primary election a week from Tuesday, presidential candidates are spending a lot of time in and around New York City. That's where most people in the state live. But today, Secretary Hillary Clinton was upstate in Buffalo. It's a place she got to know well when she represented New York in the U.S. Senate and where she hopes history will pay dividends in her contest against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Buffalo.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: In 1999, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton was prepping for U.S. Senate run and was on a so-called listening tour through upstate New York.


HILLARY CLINTON: So I intend to be spending my time in the next days and weeks and months listening to New Yorkers.

GONYEA: That your included a stop in Buffalo, a classic Rust Belt city which is now showing signs of rival. Clinton was back in Buffalo today.


CLINTON: I am so excited to be here and to see the extraordinary achievements of this community

GONYEA: Eva Hassett has witnessed Clinton's history in the city up close. Fifteen years ago, she was the mayor's chief of staff when the brand-new U.S. senator came calling.

EVA HASSETT: She came to talk to us, to really make a relationship with us in Buffalo. One of the things about Secretary Clinton is that she puts in the time to make a relationship.

GONYEA: And, Hassett says, Clinton convened meetings, made calls and pushed for big projects in a city still reeling from manufacturing job losses. Hassett says that helped lead to a medical campus downtown, lakefront projects and more, some of which star in a new Clinton campaign ad.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: You know, it wasn't always like this here. But a group of us - scientists and business leaders - had the idea of a biomedical campus. We went to Senator Clinton, and she got it right away.

GONYEA: Meanwhile, at the Bernie Sanders field office in Buffalo, organizer Brian Nowak acknowledges that Clinton's history here is meaningful.

BRIAN NOWAK: It's certainly there, and it's something that we have to - to work against

GONYEA: But, Nowak says, the Sanders campaign has been working New York state and upstate since last summer. He says they're reaching young voters here, as they have in other states. And, Nowak adds...

NOWAK: If you would've asked people a year ago that - would New York be a battleground in the primary, they would have laughed the idea off.

GONYEA: Doing well upstate could be the key to a Clinton win. A loss in her adopted home state would be very bad news for her campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: It's $11.18. Thank you, Tony. Have a nice day.

GONYEA: This is one of those iconic local establishments. Every town has its classics. In Buffalo, it's Charlie the Butcher's out near the airport. The line extends outside for lunch.

CHARLIE ROESCH: I'm going to carve Buffalo's famous beef on weck. We have a piece of top round that we've cooked for over 18 hours.

GONYEA: That's Charlie himself - Charlie Roesch - making his signature sliced beef sandwich. Politicians stop in here, too. Clinton was a regular during her Senate years.

ROESCH: She was in buffalo a lot - got to know the people, got to meet the people, believed in the people. Pretty dynamic, very smart lady. She still has not lost that affinity to western New York.

GONYEA: I asked Roesch if that kind of praise means Clinton's got his vote in the primary.

ROESCH: My wife is definitely voting for her. I feed a lot of politicians (laughter). I haven't decided who I'm voting for at this point. And sometimes I feed them. I don't always vote for all of them.

GONYEA: In fact, a quick survey of the lunchtime crowd reveals fans of Hillary Clinton, but also skeptics, which means Clinton's trip here today is not just to reconnect with old friends, but also to remind and to woo. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Buffalo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: April 8, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous audio introduction to this story incorrectly said the New York primary is next Tuesday. It is actually a week from next Tuesday.