Primary 2020: Divided Democrats go to the polls

  • Don Lowry, of Lebanon, left, takes a break from listening to a sports talk radio show to talk with fellow Amy Klobuchar supporter Daphne Petri, of Newton, Mass., at the Ward 1 polls at Kilton Library in West Lebanon, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to valley news — James M. Patterson

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    George Elder, 68, goes to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at the Ward 1 polls at Kilton Library in West Lebanon, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Elder was able to get a last minute ride on the Upper Valley Senior Center bus from his home at Quail Hollow despite forgetting to make an appointment. "These buses, I'll tell you what, they're a godsend," said Elder, who wanted to vote for Mike Bloomberg, "because he's rich as God, and that's what's necessary to defeat the beast." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • John Laniefsky, middle, gets help registering to vote in the New Hampshire Primary from Supervisor of the Checklist, Bobbi Gross, left, at the Ward 1 polls at Kilton Library in West Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Laniefsky is currently homeless, but holds a Bethlehem, N.H., drivers license and maintains a mailing address there. Nancy Simpson, also a checklist supervisor, is at right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Weimin Tan, of Lebanon, left, listens to Kathy Becket, of Lebanon, who was outside the city's Ward 3 polls Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, giving voters information about the Welcoming Lebanon Ordinance that will be on the ballot in March. Tan said she missed her opportunity to vote in the 2018 midterm election because her naturalization ceremony was canceled due to a snowstorm, and was excited to vote for the first time in the primary. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Deputy Town Clerk Jill Potter updates information at the polls in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2020 9:59:05 PM
Modified: 2/11/2020 11:19:12 PM

WEST LEBANON — As bus driver Bruce McCoy wove through the snow-covered back streets of West Lebanon Tuesday morning he got a call: Another Quail Hollow resident needed a ride to the polls.

It would be McCoy’s second trip to the senior living community that day and it wasn’t even 9 a.m.

“Service is in high demand,” McCoy said, pulling the bus away from the polls at the Kilton Public Library, which was surrounded by colorful red, yellow and green campaign signs and candidates’ supporters bundled up in the snow. As a driver for the Upper Valley Senior Center, McCoy spent the morning and early afternoon transporting seniors who needed last-minute rides to the voting booth.

One of those pickups was George Elder, 68, a Quail Hollow resident, who said primary day has been a main topic of conversation in the neighborhood for the past few weeks — and everyone has been eager to get to the polls.

He said programs like Supplemental Security Income, Medicare and Medicaid are in jeopardy if Donald Trump is re-elected.

“If that evil dunce gets into power again, you can kiss a lot of that goodbye,” Elder said.

And ultimately, he said, that’s what this primary boils down to: which Democratic candidate can beat Trump in the general election. Elder was headed to the polls to write in former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who Elder says has “more money than God,” because Elder believes a wealthier candidate has a better chance of winning in November. Bloomberg was not on the New Hampshire ballot, but is targeting super Tuesday states in early March.

Among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents who went to the polls, Trump continued to enjoy strong support.

Tim Holtz, a 55-year-old self-employed book designer from Claremont, said he voted for Trump four years ago and did so again on Tuesday, and also said Democrats had been “chasing their tail” trying to oust Trump from office through impeachment and other investigations.

“I like the economy, and above all I like the republic our country was founded on, the freedoms that we have and the freedom that I have to earn money and use it as I wish,” Holtz said.

Holtz also said it is important to “support the underprivileged people,” but was concerned about “pretty outrageous” plans from Democrats that require more from taxpayers.

“They just want to tax everything. They say it’s the top 1%, but what happens when the top 1% moves out of the country?” he said.

Paula Boynton, who voted at the polls at Lebanon’s AVA Gallery and Art Center, cast a vote for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., saying she sees him as more electable than former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“I like Bernie. I’ve always liked Bernie, and he’s someone who will be able to defeat Trump,” she said. “I’m not sure (Buttigieg) can beat Trump. I think Trump will drag him through the mud.”

For Lebanon couple Fred and Gloria Walker, it’s Sanders’ consistency that won them over, and could help him get elected.

“He’s just like a steady boat on the ocean. He’s stayed the same on all the issues,” Fred Walker said outside the Lebanon polling place Tuesday.

Over in West Lebanon, Carol Rougvie deliberated between U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sanders, but eventually landed on the Vermont senator because of his support from the African-American community.

“I made up my mind when I sat down. … It’s critical that black voters come out to vote,” she said.

But not all of the Lebanon-area voters were pro-Sanders. Julian Scott cast an enthusiastic vote for Buttigieg after seeing the presidential candidate speak at the University of New Hampshire last month. He said Buttigieg’s anti-Trump views, his compassion and his honesty are all driving factors, but his electability is key.

“He’s someone that could unite the country,” Scott said.

In Canaan, Helen Skeist, 69, felt similarly about the former mayor.

“I voted for him because I think he’s got great ideas on how to move the country in a positive direction,” she said outside the Canaan Fire Station, which is the only polling place in town. “He’s smart and he has a very calm demeanor and he can help bring people together.

Buttigieg also seemed to like the more electable candidate to Canaan resident Bob Kirk, 69.

“He hasn’t completely got spoiled by the system,” Kirk said, adding that as much as he likes Sanders, he does not see the democratic socialist as a viable candidate. “That might be second-guessing, but Buttigieg seems a little fresher.”

Outside the polling center at Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon, the question of electability had a decidedly different answer. For many, it was U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who did well in a New Hampshire debate Friday night, helping propel her campaign in the final days.

“Look at what happened in England,” said West Lebanon resident Ruth Craig, 67, who wore two bright green “Amy for America” stickers on her parka. “You have polarized candidates and the people in the middle don’t have any choice. ... That’s why I voted for Amy.”

For Terri Munsey-Ballou, 58, who identifies as a moderate independent, and her wife Cathy Munsey-Ballou, Klobuchar is the candidate who could unite voters across party lines. The women stressed the importance of having a female president, with Cathy Munsey-Ballou declaring “it’s time.”

“A lot of people don’t think a woman can beat Trump, but it’s not the woman, it’s the Democratic party who has to beat him,” she said.

While electability was a key consideration in casting a vote for many people, other left-leaning voters made their decisions based primarily on policy.

Hanover resident Ruth Lienhard said she voted for Warren on Tuesday, because she will work to “attack” America’s problems.

“I decided not to just vote for someone that I thought could beat Trump,” said Lienhard. “I just wanted to vote for someone who had the ideas that I thought would be progressive enough.”

For Grantham resident Beryl Perriello, who backed Sanders, the senator’s record of assisting veterans helped make her decision. Sanders is the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Perriello, 74, was a nurse at the White River Junction VA Medical Center and said she first heard of the Vermont senator from patients.

“I started hearing a lot of the veterans talking about Bernie and how if there was a problem, he always listened to them,” she said.

West Lebanon resident Walter Bowen’s focus was on the economy and job growth. He said he voted for Andrew Yang because the candidate has been the most outspoken about how technological advances and the growth of artificial intelligence could replace workers in several industries.

Newport voter Dustin Beaudry, 36, who also cast his ballot for Andrew Yang, said it was the entrepreneur’s $1,000-a-month stimulus package that drew him in.

For some voters, like Ron Rechisky, 73, of New London, it’s important to keep Tuesday’s primary in perspective.

“It’s a big country and we’re just a little state and sometimes people treat the whole thing like it’s a popularity contest and vote for people that don’t have a chance,” he said, though he declined to say who he voted for. “I don’t get it because you’ve got to get those delegates across the whole country.”

“So many of these (candidates) aren’t going to be here after South Carolina,” he added.

Tim Camerato, Nora Doyle-Burr, Liz Sauchelli and John Gregg contributed to this report.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@ or 603-727-3216.

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