Trump is holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo Black and Hispanic voters

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will campaign in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation Thursday, holding a rally in the South Bronx to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.

Trump will address supporters in Crotona Park, a public green space in a borough that is among the city’s most diverse and its most impoverished, a change from the majority-white areas where he holds most of his rallies. His campaign said he is expected to draw a crowd of several thousand people.

With Trump confined to New York for the last six weeks, the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign planned a series of local stops across his hometown before and after court. He visited a bodega in Harlem, dropped by a construction site one morning, and held a photo op at a local firehouse.

The Bronx rally will be Trump’s first event open to the general public as he insists he is making a play to win an overwhelmingly Democratic state that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Besides creating a spectacle of rallygoers and protesters, the rally also allows Trump to highlight what he argues are advantages on economic and immigration issues that could cut into key Democratic voting blocs.

“The strategy is to demonstrate to the voters of the Bronx and New York that this isn’t your typical presidential election, that Donald Trump is here to represent everybody and get our country back on track,” said Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, a potential Trump running mate who grew up in Brooklyn and will join him at the rally.

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The Bronx Democratic Party is planning to protest Trump’s appearance with its own event at the park.

“Trump isn’t welcome in the Bronx,” they wrote in a social media advertisement.

Trump’s campaign believes he can chip away at President Joe Biden’s support among Black and Hispanic voters, particularly younger men who may not follow politics closely, but are frustrated by their economic situations and drawn to Trump’s tough-guy persona.

He’s also argued the indictments he faces in New York and elsewhere make him relatable to Black voters frustrated by the criminal justice system, a statement that was harshly criticized by Biden’s allies.

The rally comes during a pause in Trump’s criminal hush money trial. Court will resume following the Memorial Day weekend with closing arguments. The jury will then decide whether Trump will become the first former president in the nation’s history to be criminally convicted and whether he will be the first major party presidential candidate to run as a convicted felon.

Several longtime figures in New York politics — both Republican and Democrat — argued there’s good reason for Trump to go to the Bronx and other majority Black and Latino communities.

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, noted that the GOP, in an upset victory, picked up a city council seat from the borough last year for the first time in 40 years. He pointed to the current political climate, with some voters pessimistic about the economy and viewing Biden as weakened.

“As chairman of the party here in New York, I’m not going to write off New York. We’re going to go for it,” he said.

Trump has often pointed to the success of former Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who ran for governor in 2022 against Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul. Zeldin ultimately lost the race by an unusually close margin.

During his campaign, Zeldin appeared in the Bronx alongside the Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr., a former state senator and city council member who had urged Trump to hold a rally in the borough and held a pro-Trump event there Saturday.

While other presidential candidates have visited and met with local leaders, Díaz commended Trump for being “the first and only president or presidential candidate who has shown respect to minority communities in the Bronx” by holding a rally.

Díaz, who remains a Democrat despite backing Trump, said he believes there are others in the borough who will also cross the aisle, pointing to concerns over an influx of migrants that has dominated headlines in New York over budget and safety concerns.

“People are fed up,” he said. “Democrats say they are there to help us … but our people are doing worse under the Democratic control.”

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that campaigning in that part of the city makes sense for Trump.

“There is a concentration of Latino ministers who are pro-life in the Bronx and they are mobilized and energized,” said Cuomo, who chose to appear with Diaz in 2022 as he floated a political comeback months after the Democrat resigned after being accused of sexual harassment by at least 11 women.

Cuomo, who has denied the allegations, said: “It’s not really indicative of New York, but there is a lot of energy on that issue in that part of the Bronx.”

The Bronx was once the most Democratic borough in the city. Barack Obama won 91.2% of the borough’s vote in 2012, the highest anywhere in the state. Biden won 83.5% of the borough in 2020. Trump garnered only 16% of the vote.

The area Trump will be visiting is overwhelmingly non-white — a departure from most of his rally locations. About 65% of residents are Hispanic and 31% Black, according to U.S. Census data. About 35% live below the poverty line.

Trump will not be the first Republican presidential candidate to visit the borough. Ronald Reagan held an event in the South Bronx as he ran against Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1980, delivering a speech at a vacant lot on Charlotte Street. Reagan, according to a New York Times report from the time, likened the area to London in World War II after the German blitz and accused Carter of failing to deliver on promised revitalization efforts. Carter had visited the same spot several years earlier, vowing improvements.

Reagan’s visit was interrupted by protesters, who chanted, “You ain’t going to do nothing,” and “Go back to California.”

Adam Solis, the chairman of the Black Caucus of the New York Young Republican Club, which helped Trump’s campaign organize the event, said the visit to a park where he played growing up shows Trump cares about what he dubbed the “forgotten borough.”

“You can imagine being a Trump supporter in the Bronx. You can get ostracized sometimes,” said Solis, who still lives in the borough.

He also called on any protesters who might choose to demonstrate to remain peaceful.

“I wish any protesters the best. I hope they have fun sharing their views,” he said. “But I just hope they tread lightly. Because disrespect is not accepted in the Bronx.”

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