Photo credit: Jo Freeman

The Democratic candidates for all five of New York’s statewide offices on the 2022 ballot rallied the troops in downtown Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon before election day.  They were all incumbents seeking re-election.  

Four are state government officials.  The fifth is US Senator Chuck Schumer.  Together, they are a study in diversity: race, sex, religion, height, weight, and nationality.  They were also a study in casual dress.  Everyone wore comfortable shoes and only a couple of the men wore ties.

They came to the bluest county in the state to turn out the most Democrats to offset all the Republicans who will vote in other parts of the state.  As Democratic candidates have become more diverse, the party’s base of reliable voters has shrunk.  Will New York’s first female governor be defeated by a Jewish Republican from Long Island?

The candidates were:

Governor Kathy Hochul

Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado

Attorney General Letitia James

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli

US Senator Chuck Schumer.  Chuck brought his daughter Jessica on stage with him to introduce her to the audience as well as his new granddaughter.  He said Ellie is named for Eleanor Roosevelt.  Will either, or both, be future candidates for Chuck’s job?

Most of those invited to the rally were union members.  They gathered in a long line outside the event space waiting to be let in. There, some of them posed for a photo op.

Once inside, they frequently raised their signs and chanted.

The big draw was former President Bill Clinton.  The former Governor of Arkansas settled in an affluent neighborhood in Westchester County 30 miles from New York City in 1999.  His wife was elected as New York’s first female Senator the following year.

Having shot Hillary at Barnard two days earlier, I wanted to photograph Bill, whom I haven’t seen live since 2000.  I got into the press section by showing the photos I had taken of the Barnard rally  I wanted to get on the camera riser at the back of the audience to take front photos.  It was crowded with tripods and photographers who got there earlier. There were no railings, making squeezing into the crowd somewhat dangerous. A little slip could cause a big tumble.  Lack of railings is an OSHA violation.  Ironic in an event populated by union activists. 

Fortunately, there was a second camera riser off to the side of the stage. I was the first photographer to climb onto it, but not the last.  It had a clean sight line, but only of the side of the stage and the podium.

Actress Rosie Perez was the first rally speaker and the only one who wasn’t a professional politician

After the program started, an event organizer let some photographers through the barricades to crouch in front of the stage.  This is standard practice.

He wouldn’t let me go in, insisting that I stay on the side riser.  This reminded me of my first travails shooting for publication in the late 1960s.  There were virtually no female photographers then and the brothers just assumed that I was an amateur trying to squeeze into their spots. They tried to squeeze me out.  Many decades later, there are plenty of female photographers and they were allowed in front of the stage to get a different angle.  But not me.

Before Bill and Hochul came on stage other politicians warmed up the crowd.

Rep. Yvette Clarke

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

New York City Mayor Eric Adams

All the politicians hugged each other as one entered and the other exited.  “Safe distancing” was out the window.

Gov. Huchul hugs Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton hasn’t lost his fire, though he is a bit slower.

He started to exit from the opposite side he had entered, implying that he would do a rope walk of those gathered behind the barricades.  However, an event organizer quickly corrected him and sent him back on stage for a group shot. Bill then exited from the side he had entered.

I couldn’t get the front shot while standing on the side riser. The organizer who redirected Bill wouldn’t let me descend from the side riser to go inside the press pen and get a front shot. Nor would he give me his name when I asked for it.  

Attorney General Letitia James spoke last, after the big names had left.  The crowd had dissipated and the event organizer who had restricted my movements disappeared.  I left the side riser and went onto the back riser, which was half empty.

Jo Freeman is a feminist scholar and author.
Jo has finished her book Tell It Like It Is: Living History in the Southern Civil Rights Movement, 1965-66, and is looking for a publisher.
Copyright ©2022 Jo Freeman.