NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was not a normal primary day in New York on Tuesday. The last time there was a June primary was 40 years ago, but a group of Harlem students formed their own get-out-the-vote squad, telling people “I can’t vote but you can.”
They were from Democracy Prep Charter School, wearing bright yellow shirts to get people’s attention. They reminded the people in their community it’s important to go to the polls.
“I’m here because I can’t vote, but I know I can get people to vote,” student Samantha Fuentes told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
When asked what he was telling the people, Trevon Mays said, “To get out and vote because not a lot of people know its voting time and just vote.”
There were a number of hotly contested Democratic primaries that are getting voters to the polls on Tuesday, especially in the racially and ethnically diverse 8th Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens, where Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Councilman Charles Barron were crossing swords.
“This election is about a fresh start leaping into the future,” Jeffries said. “We’re confident that we’ve identified thousands of supporters who are going to come out and support us today.”
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks with Barron and Jeffries
Jeffries was also in good spirits when he showed up to vote at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights.
“We’ve united this district and we look forward to going down to Washington and doing the people’s business,” Jeffries told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks.
One supporter said she voted for Jeffries because he is “a unifier” who “knows how to bring people together.”
Although the district is 75 percent black and Latino, Jeffries spent Tuesday trying to mobilize the Jewish vote because of some controversial anti-Israel statements made by Barron, a former member of the Black Panthers. Barron said his job is “to put pressure on those who are supporting the 1 percent more than the 99 percent.”
“I expect the support of the people. It’s the people who make history. It’s the people who pass budgets, put pressure on elected officials to pass budgets,” Barron added.
Barron, who has been endorsed by outgoing Rep. Ed Towns, was all smiles and sounded confident at his headquarters on New Lots Avenue on Tuesday, 1010 WINS’ Brooks reported.
“I’m feeling very, very good about the hard work we’ve done and where we are at this point,” Barron said.
One voter said Barron is “honest” and “can’t be bought.”
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports
Another big race is in the new 13th Congressional District, where voters were deciding whether longtime Congressman Charles Rangel’s political career was to continue. If you ask the 82-year-old lawmaker, who arrived at the polls with his wife, Alma, he very much wants to continue his career. And despite being censured by the House for ethics violations, he said he’s still the man for the job.
“The one reason why I think it’s important that I be allowed to extend the service to my country and the Congress and my district is because of the times that we find ourselves in the Congress. Never before have we faced such a fiscal crisis,” Rangel said.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb: Rangel vs. Espaillat
Among the four trying to unseat Rangel was State Sen. Adriano Espaillat. He voted Tuesday with his daughter and said it’s time for a new face in Washington
“Jobs are very important; small business … people need a break. Wall Street got a break. The insurance companies got a break, but Main Street America has not got a break. They need a break,” Espaillat said.
“I think we’re going to have probably a bigger turnout than we expected. People are very enthusiastic about this election,” Espaillat added. “Vote for change. Vote for Espaillat for Congress.”
Espaillat’s words were taken to heart by many.
“I feel that every person here in Harlem, you know, we as a people, we need to know that our vote counts because we live here,” Harlem resident Diane Boatwright said.
“I was voting because I think it is important to me and I think it’s important to the community,” Irene Chilton added.
Rangel made it clear he passionately wants a 22nd term, adding, “Well, if I lose tonight I will sleep just like a baby and cry myself to sleep.”
Grace Meng, Rory Lancman and Elizabeth Crowley were vying to replace retiring Democrat Gary Ackerman in Queens. If Meng wins and does it again in November in the heavily Democratic district, she’d be the first Asian representative from New York.
On the Senate side, lawyer Wendy Long, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos and Republican Bob Turner were competing for the chance to take on a well-funded Kirsten Gillibrand in November.
Polls are open until 9 p.m.
For more information, visit www.elections.ny.gov.