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NEW YORK — Sen. Bernie Sanders fell short in New York’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday as he was defeated by his rival, Hillary Clinton.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton won by over 15 percent, a clearly decisive margin. Even a narrow win for the former secretary of state in the delegate-rich state would have gone a long way toward blocking Sanders’ path to the Democratic nomination.
Clinton spoke to supporters at a hotel in Times Square shortly after the results were announced. She thanked the voters in New York, where she lives and served as a senator from 2001 until 2009.
“Today, you proved once again there’s no place like home!” she said.
Hillary Clinton celebrates her victory in the New York presidential primary at a rally in Manhattan. (Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)
Clinton also took a shot at earlier attacks from the Sanders campaign that attributed her success solely to her victories in Southern states.
“You know, in this campaign, we’ve won in every region of the country, from the North, to the South, to the East, to the West,” said Clinton, adding, “But this one’s personal.”
Sanders won eight of the last nine contests leading up to the New York primary, but Clinton’s earlier wins ensured that he needed to defeat her in the state — and every other one on the remaining primary calendar — by at least 12 points. With a win in New York, Clinton has raised the bar for Sanders even higher in the states to come.
Sanders addressed nearly 7,000 of his supporters in a field house at Penn State University several hours before the polls closed in New York and results were announced. He pointed to his recent momentum to argue Clinton was “getting a little bit nervous.”
“This is the campaign that has the energy, that has the enthusiasm and that in November will create the kind of voter turnout that will not only allow us to retain the White House, but will regain the U.S. Senate,” he said.
There’s no question Sanders has gained steam in the last few weeks. In addition to his recent streak, polls showed Clinton’s lead heading into New York diminish by about 20 points in the past month. At the debate last Thursday, Sanders’ senior adviser, Tad Devine, said this momentum would be a key part of the campaign’s strategy going forward. Devine argued that Sanders did not need New York to secure the nomination. He suggested that recent polls showing that Sanders is a stronger general election candidate than Clinton would convince voters and the party’s superdelegates to back his candidacy.
“I think the Democratic Party is going to look at two candidate and realize that Bernie Sanders, by far, is the strongest candidate for our party,” Devine said.
The Sanders campaign has also pointed to alleged voting irregularities in the New York race. Multiple local officials have identified issues at the polls, and on Monday, the state Board of Elections revealed that approximately 126,000 Democrats had been removed from the state’s voter rolls. New York election law does not permit voters who are not registered members of the party to participate in the primary. Sanders spokeswoman Erika Andiola released a statement on Tuesday saying that the campaign was “deeply disturbed by what we’re hearing from polling places across the state.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders greets community members during a walk on East Fordham Road in the Bronx, N.Y., on Monday. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)
“From long lines and dramatic understaffing to longtime voters being forced to cast affidavit ballots and thousands of registered New Yorkers being dropped from the rolls, what’s happening today is a disgrace,” Andiola said. “We need to be making it easier for people to vote, not inventing arbitrary obstacles — and today’s shameful demonstration must underline the urgent importance of fixing voting laws across the country.”
The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the alleged irregularities.
Sanders also addressed New York’s election laws in his Pennsylvania speech.
“Today in New York state — if you can believe this — about 27 percent of the eligible voters in that state are unable to participate in the Democratic or Republican primaries because they have chosen to list themselves as independents,” he said, as his supporters booed. “That’s wrong. Almost 3 million people in that state cannot vote today. And that has got to change in future elections.”
On Tuesday afternoon, as people voted in the primary, a group called Election Justice USA filed a suit in federal court arguing that the registration of over 200 voters had been switched without their input, preventing them from participating. Election Justice USA’s website describes the group as a “a national voting rights organization,” and a spokesperson has described the group as nonpartisan. However, the site was only created on April 11, and all seven of the people listed as members of the “Election Justice USA team” have made online posts expressing support for Sanders. In Facebook posts on April 12, two members of the group, Michael Rayer-Tighe and Stewart McCauley, described the lawsuit as an effort to help Sanders.
“There are potentially thousands of Bernie supporters who registered as Dem before the deadline but won’t be allowed to vote next week,” the posts said. “We at Election Justice USA are filing an emergency injunction to address this issue.”
The posts by the Election Justice USA team members also encouraged people to “Help Bernie” by checking their registration and contacting the group and the campaign about any potential issues.
When asked about Election Justice USA by Yahoo News, a Sanders campaign spokesman, Karthik Ganapathy, described the group as “an organization of volunteers operating entirely independently from the campaign.”
In addition to her lead in the polls, Clinton had the backing of much of the state’s political establishment, including the entire congressional delegation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Even if he had had ideal circumstances, Sanders was facing an uphill battle in New York, and after tonight, his path through the remaining states is even steeper.
Hillary Clinton arrives with her daughter, Chelsea, right, to celebrate her victory at her New York presidential primary night rally. (Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)
Although Clinton pointed to upcoming states on the primary calendar and indicated she plans to stay on the campaign trail, she also seemed to be pivoting toward the general election, attacking the Republican frontrunners, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. The Democratic primary has been divisive at times, with Sanders attacking Clinton from the left and attempting to paint her as a tool of the moneyed establishment. In her speech Tuesday, Clinton repeatedly described her campaign and platform as “progressive" and urged Sanders’ backers to unite behind her.
“To all the people who supported Sen. Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us,” Clinton said.
Additional reporting from Liz Goodwin in State College, Pa.
(Cover thumbnail photo: Kathy Willens/AP)