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Some Delegates Finding The National Conventions Pricey

Mohawk Valley/Central New Yorkers for Trump leader Jim Zecca, left, and volunteers organize before a press conference in Utica's historic train station in March.
Payne Horning / WRVO News
Mohawk Valley/Central New Yorkers for Trump leader Jim Zecca, left, and volunteers organize before a press conference in Utica's historic train station in March.

Supporters of the two outsider candidates in the Presidential race are finding obstacles to attending the national conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland, held during the next couple of week.

Brian Escobar works two jobs. One, at a peace organization in Syracuse, pays $15 an hour. The other, helping the developmentally disabled, earns him  $13.50 an hour.  He’s also a Bernie Sanders delegate. When Escobar and his two friends, who are also Sanders delegates, found out from the Democratic State Committee about the hotel arrangements for the national convention in Philadelphia in in mid June , they were in for some sticker shock.

“We finally got to see the actual prices, and it was definitely higher than I expected,” he said.

Escobar says he figured prices would be steep. But he was not prepared for the $530 a night, plus taxes, rate at the downtown hotel assigned to the New York delegation. The rooms also have a five night minimum stay. He and his friends will be sharing the room and are crowd sourcing to pay for it. He says so far they’ve raised a couple of thousand dollars.

Escobar says he’s also going to lose a week’s pay, since his employers don’t have paid vacation policies.

Most of the delegates will be Hillary Clinton supporters, and come from the more established political world. Many are elected officials, and commonly use campaign accounts to pay for convention expenses. Escobar says the experience so far has been an eye opener.

“It shows how there is a political machine, both two major political parties have their system,” Escobar said. “If you’re a candidate that doesn’t want to work within the system, and don’t back the candidate they want you to back, you don’t get that support.”

Escobar says it becomes a “pay to play system”.

Escobar will be able to vote for his candidate, Senator Sanders, on the first round of balloting, even though Sanders endorsed Clinton on Tuesday. He says he’s not very enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, and finds her too conservative, dating back to her husband’s forming of the Democratic Leadership Council a quarter century ago. The group backed de regulating Wall Street and favored international trade agreements.

“I’m still extremely opposed to Hillary Clinton,” said Escobar, who says he has no “personal animosity” toward Clinton. But he says he objects to her being “basically the right wing of the Democratic party”, and says she has been “since the 80’s”.  

But Escobar says he understands why Sanders would want to back the party’s nominee, since he’ll continue to be a US Senator and needs to work with Democratic  politicians in the future. But he says he wishes Sanders had waited until the convention to do it.

Trump supporters are also struggling to get to the Republican National Convention. Jim Zecca is a Trump backer and organizer from Utica . He says he can’t be a delegate because he’s an independent, and not registered in the party. But he says other Trump supporters who are Republicans and offered to go, were ignored by Republican Party leaders in his region.

“We wanted to really make sure that it was enthusiastic Trump supporters,” Zecca said. “But unfortunately the establishment made the decisions and they picked their own people to go.”

He says as a result, some of the delegates voting for Trump may not be all that excited about their vote.

Zecca says one of his colleagues from the Albany area did get a slot as an alternate delegate.  Many Trump supporters, like Sanders backers, are also not wealthy and do not have access to campaign accounts to help pay for their stays. He says his friend plans to camp out at a campground around 45 minutes from downtown Cleveland.

Zecca likens the excitement surrounding Trump’s candidacy to that of Ross Perot, the independent candidate in 1992, saying he’s bringing upmany of the same issues.

And he says he’s disappointed in Bernie Sanders endorsement of Hillary Clinton this week, saying Sanders “turned his back” on core supporters. 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.