NEW YORK | Loyalty vs. Pride

By Keith B. Richburg and Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

NEW YORK, Feb. 5 -- Hillary Rodham Clinton has long been heavily favored here in her home state, where she cruised to a comfortable reelection to the Senate in 2006. But in several districts targeted by Barack Obama, voters -- particularly African Americans -- seemed torn Tuesday between hometown loyalty and racial pride.

Pride appeared to be trumping loyalty, according to a small sampling of voters in two of the targeted areas.

In the Manhattan congressional district that includes Harlem, where former president Bill Clinton maintains his office, the dilemma was so acute that many voters interviewed at polling places said they did not want their full names used. They said they were voting for Obama (D-Ill.) in the privacy of the voting booth, despite intense pressure from local officials, clergy members and neighbors, to support Clinton (D-N.Y.). "I think Clinton's going to win the nomination, but he'll win this area," said Donald Goodman, who is 68 and retired. "If it wasn't for Obama, she might get 90 percent."

"I'll tell you the truth: I voted for Obama," said 66-year-old Carrie Douglas, who was speaking in a half-whisper as if revealing a closely held secret. Walking unsteadily with the aid of an umbrella, she was having trouble navigating the wheelchair ramp because of a recent hip replacement. She thought Clinton would ultimately win, she said, but, "At least I can sleep good tonight knowing I voted for him."

Not everyone said he voted for Obama. "I'm going with Hillary because of experience," Allen Jackson said. "I'd give Obama another five or six years."

Obama has also targeted a heavily black neighborhood of central Brooklyn, which analysts said could be one of the most contested in the state for Democrats. There, voters waited in the fog and rain all morning for the polls to open, and they streamed in to vote.

Almost all surveyed informally said they voted for Obama, and they were not reluctant to talk about why.

"I've been black all my life and voting for other people who don't look like me. I haven't had the satisfaction of voting for someone who looks like me for president," said George Murden, 74, a retired housing inspector.

"I don't want to see any more double talk and lies, like excuses for Iraq," said Fredericka Fisher, an Obama supporter who is unemployed. "He's not a professor of double talk as other candidates are.

"If Barack wasn't around, Hillary would have gotten my vote," Fisher said, adding that she has become disillusioned with the Clintons' campaign methods. "The way they have been acting shows me something just beneath the surface that was always there. And that's their disdain for minorities, blacks in particular. They wouldn't get my vote to run a candy store."

"I've been with Hillary since before she was a senator," said Jennifer Marik, 36, a stage manager. "But I see the need for change. My fear of her is that she's polarizing, and it would be an ugly election."

"The overwhelming majority of the African American and Caribbean American communities in New York City are located in central Brooklyn, southeast Queens, and the northeast Bronx," said Hakeem Jeffries (D), a state assemblyman from Brooklyn who has endorsed Obama. "And these communities in recent years have elected a newer generation of black elected officials who are not bound to the traditional political establishment."

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