POLITICS
04/19/2016 12:37 am ET Updated Apr 19, 2016

Donald Trump Closes Out The New York Primary In The One City That Could've Stopped Him From Running

The GOP front-runner packed an arena in Buffalo ahead of Tuesday's primary.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at the packed First Niagara Center in Buffalo Monday night.
Al Drago/Getty Images
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at the packed First Niagara Center in Buffalo Monday night.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Donald Trump made his final campaign stop before Tuesday's New York primary in the city where, in many ways, his presidential bid started.

"What spirit the people of Buffalo have!" Trump exclaimed to huge cheers from the audience downtown at the First Niagara Center, where police estimated the crowd to be over 11,000 people.

The seeds of Trump's current presidential bid took root at least as far back as 2014. That year, he submitted a bid to buy the Buffalo Bills. He wasn't the most popular suitor, but he did seem better than Bon Jovi, who was looking to move the beloved team to Toronto. 

Trump's bid fell short (as did Bon Jovi's), and the rest is history.

"[I]f I bought the Buffalo Bills, I probably would not be doing what I'm doing now, which is much more important," Trump told Sports Illustrated last year. 

Trump played up his ties to the city and the team at Monday's raucous rally, getting a high-profile endorsement from Bills coach Rex Ryan, who introduced Trump. 

"With this great great coach, you're going to have an unbelievable team this year, and I'm going to be rooting for the Buffalo Bills!" Trump promised. 

In other words, stick with him and not only will he make America great again, but he'll make the Bills great again, too. 

In 1992, Donald Trump and his then-wife Marla Maples visited Buffalo for Jim Kelly’s Carnival of Stars.
Jim Kelly/Buffalo News
In 1992, Donald Trump and his then-wife Marla Maples visited Buffalo for Jim Kelly’s Carnival of Stars.

Although the city of Buffalo is solidly Democratic, the surrounding suburbs and rural areas lean conservative -- and the region is one of the most racially segregated in the country. It's the area represented by Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump. It's also home to real estate developer and former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who is basically the Trump of Buffalo in both personality and politics. Both men spoke at Monday's rally. 

Drive just outside the city and it’s rare to spot yard signs for anyone but Trump, whose message on the economy has resonated with workers in this blue-collar area. There are also still plenty of signs calling for repeal of the SAFE Act, a state gun control law passed in response to the Sandy Hook massacre in 2013. 

Donald Trump sign spotted in Genesee County, New York.
Amanda Terkel/HuffPost
Donald Trump sign spotted in Genesee County, New York.
Anti-Obama sign in Genesee County, New York.
Amanda Terkel/HuffPost
Anti-Obama sign in Genesee County, New York.
The SAFE Act remains unpopular in upstate New York. 
Amanda Terkel/HuffPost
The SAFE Act remains unpopular in upstate New York. 

When he wasn't touting the greatness of Buffalo at Monday's rally, Trump focused on the trade deals he argues have cost America jobs, and, of course, the need to build a wall on the border with Mexico -- probably his most famous line by now. 

Trump also focused his fire on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose social conservative politics aren't especially popular in New York state; polls show that he could come in third, behind Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). 

"Lyin' Ted Cruz -- one of the great liars of all time," Trump said.

Among Trump's supporters at the rally, Cruz was nearly as unpopular as the Democratic presidential candidates. Some, in fact, said they'd even vote for Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) before pulling the lever for Cruz. 

"Ted Cruz is creepy," said Jessi Jeziorski, 18, from nearby Orchard Park.

"I think he's a snake," added Andy Russell, 70, from West Seneca. 

His wife, Pam Russell, 60, said she believed in the separation of church and state and worried that Cruz would base many of his decisions on his religious beliefs. 

Terry Fava, 76, from Rochester, wasn't as against Cruz as some other attendees, but she said she thought he'd be better as a Supreme Court justice. She said she also was concerned that he was born in Canada and may not be eligible to be president. 

"Of course Obama wasn't either, and they didn't care. But I'd just like to see an American get it," Fava said, adding she didn't believe that Obama was born in Hawaii. 

Cruz's mother is American, and he argues that he is therefore automatically an American citizen and therefore eligible to be president. So far, the courts have agreed with him and thrown out cases challenging whether he's a "natural born citizen" under the U.S. Constitution. 

T-shirts sold outside the Trump event. There were vendors stretching down the block peddling various Trump-themed items.
Amanda Terkel/HuffPost
T-shirts sold outside the Trump event. There were vendors stretching down the block peddling various Trump-themed items.
More items sold outside the Trump rally in Buffalo.
Amanda Terkel/HuffPost
More items sold outside the Trump rally in Buffalo.

Trump also attracted a fair amount of protesters Monday. 

A group of people -- including activists from the local chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice -- linked arms and sat down on the floor of the arena shortly after Trump began speaking, and many of them were literally dragged out by police.  

Gin Armstrong, 33, also from Buffalo, was one of the protesters pulled from the venue by security officers and described what happened to The Huffington Post. 

After the event, however, it appeared that only two protesters were taken to the police holding center. They had yet to be released as of late Monday night. 

Other protesters left the arena and stood blocking the nearby light rail tracks until police formed a line and pushed them away with batons. 

"We led the march from the First Niagara Center down to here, and we were going to block off the train tracks so that Trump supporters couldn't go home," said Shaketa Redden, 33, a Black Lives Matter activist from Buffalo. "Because our message is that Buffalo is the sixth-most segregated city in the nation, and if we can't rest, they can't rest. Instead of us being able to do that, the cops came up and pushed us and kept pushing us. So we just held the line and sat."

Protester removed from the Trump rally.
Al Drago/Getty Images
Protester removed from the Trump rally.

Buffalo doesn't usually find itself getting this sort of political attention. It's the first time in decades that New York has had a competitive presidential primary in both parties. All the candidates came to Buffalo, with the exception of Kasich

Former President Bill Clinton, along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), were also in Buffalo Monday campaigning for Clinton -- the state's former U.S. senator -- and rallying supporters at a phone-banking event. 

Former President Bill Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) came to Buffalo Monday.
Amanda Terkel/HuffPost
Former President Bill Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) came to Buffalo Monday.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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