The presidential candidates ate cheese curds in Wisconsin, now it’s time to chow down on hot dogs in Coney Island! As New York’s three-term Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller, famously said in 1966, “No one can hope to be elected in this state without being photographed eating a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous.”
Last April, when Hillary Clinton announced her campaign headquarters would be in Brooklyn, we anticipated she’d soon show up at Nathan’s for her photo op. What is she waiting for?
Now that the New York Primary is competitive for the first time in decades and Nathan’s is celebrating its 100th anniversary, a trip to the People’s Playground is required to establish her Brooklyn bona fides.
For Bernie Sanders, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, and moved to Vermont in his 20’s, being photographed eating a hot dog at Nathan’s and shaking hands with locals would be seen as a homecoming. UPDATE: April 8th… It looks like Bernie will be the first! We have confirmation that Bernie will be on the Coney Island Boardwalk for a 2pm rally on Sunday with security check-in beginning at 11am!
Though Donald Trump is a native New Yorker, don’t expect to see him belly up to the counter at Nathan’s. There is absolutely such a thing as bad publicity. The Donald’s presence in Coney Island would occasion mention of the horrible damage his father Fred Trump wreaked here 50 years ago. See the exhibit at the Coney Island History Project this summer: “The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump’s Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion.”
Today, Ted Cruz went to a matzoh bakery in Brighton Beach and also to Coney Island, according to a tweet from the 60th Precinct. It’s sheer cluelessness of “New York Values” that he got this close and skipped Nathan’s. Meanwhile at Mike’s Deli in the Bronx, John Kasich showed an appetite worthy of a competitor in Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.
The tradition of New York politicians making a campaign stop at Nathan’s has encompassed governors, mayors, attorneys general, comptrollers and city council presidents. In an iconic photo taken at Nathan’s Famous, Nelson Rckefeller and the state’s attorney general, Lewis Lefkowitz, are seen enthusiastically eating the famous franks. “They campaigned aggressively in overwhelmingly Democratic Coney Island in 1966,” according to Gastropolis: Food and New York City. “They ate countless hot dogs and shook hands for hours in what was their most successful day on the campaign trail.”
In the previously unpublished photo below from the archive of Famous Nathan director Lloyd Handwerker, Nathan welcomes the Democratic candidates in the 1961 municipal election to his hot dog emporium. Robert F. Wagner for Mayor, Abe Beame for Comptroller, and Paul R. Screvane for President of the City Council went on to defeat the Republicans.