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Primary 2020: Analysis: Among Democratic voters, an income divide in the Valley

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2020 11:17:34 PM
Modified: 2/11/2020 11:26:29 PM

CLAREMONT — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., brought the vote home in blue-collar towns across the Upper Valley, as voters there said they were drawn to his consistency and progressive message that many think can help oust Republican President Donald Trump in November.

“I want to get rid of Trump, and I think he’s the only guy who can do it,” said Stefanie Barton, a 56-year-old Claremont resident who also backed Sanders in the Democratic primary four years ago. “I think he has better plans for America, and I don’t believe that socialism is communism, I think that people are confused.”

But former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg won in many of the more prosperous towns in the Valley, including Hanover, as many voters signaled they are interested in a fresh perspective in Washington.

The 38-year-old Buttigieg took 1,397 votes in Hanover, while Sanders’ 1,078 votes barely outpaced U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who won 1,064 votes in Dartmouth College’s hometown. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren finished fourth there with 973 votes.

According to unofficial results, Sanders won 674 votes in Claremont to 516 for Buttigieg and 260 for Klobuchar, who ran a strong third across the state. Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden took 161 and 158 votes, respectively.

Crystal Covington, a 48-year-old Claremont resident, also said she voted for Sanders, whom she has long supported.

“He’s for the little people, and he’s been a fighter,” said Covington, a Democrat and former nurse.

Sanders won easily in such towns as Newport and Charlestown and also got top billing in Canaan, where he had 218 votes to 204 for Buttigieg and 119 for Klobuchar. And Sanders almost doubled Buttigieg’s total in Charlestown, 320-162.

But as in Iowa last week, it was a virtual tie in Lebanon, with Sanders taking 1,078 votes in the city to 1,075 for Buttigieg, with Warren placing third with 736 votes and Klobuchar 710.

It was also close in Orford — Sanders 85, Buttigieg 83, Klobuchar 75 and Warren 49. Biden, who finished dismally across the state and left New Hampshire earlier in the day for South Carolina, won just 26 votes in Orford.

Buttigieg beat Sanders 128-123 in Cornish, with Klobuchar at 108. And Buttigieg won by a far larger margin in Plainfield, where he had 272 votes, Sanders 190 and Klobuchar 161. Warren was fourth with 123.

Buttigieg also cruised in the fast-growing bedroom community of Grantham, winning 338 votes there. Klobuchar placed second there with 292 votes, while Sanders had 213. So too in the wealthy college town of New London, where Buttigieg had 433 votes, Klobuchar 417 and Sanders just 248.

Sadie Smith, 38, a registered nurse and independent in Claremont, said she had read Buttigieg’s book “and felt he understands the issues that are important to me, like the economy, women’s rights and women’s health.”

She said Buttigieg offers a fresh perspective to the country that others didn’t because of his age.

“I don’t want white-haired old men telling me how to run my life. (Buttigieg) can see America as it is now and can be, not as it was,” Smith said.

That sentiment was echoed by Steve Hood, a 62-year-old Claremont independent who works in manufacturing and also voted for Buttigieg.

“Kind of the fact that he is an outsider, fresh ideas, military service,” said Hood. “I go by message, not by age.”

Klobuchar was drawing support from voters who were pleased by her strong performance in a New Hampshire debate on Friday night.

“We need a centrist,” said Linda Lee, a Kendal at Hanover resident who voted for Klobuchar by absentee ballot in Meredith, N.H., along with her husband Bill. She said she also liked that Klobuchar has experience in the Senate, is from the Midwest and has a sense of humor.

Klobuchar almost won at least one Upper Valley town, with 190 votes in Lyme, just one vote behind Buttigieg’s 191, while Sanders had 175 votes there.

Former state Rep. Chuck Townsend, D-Canaan, had planned to vote for Warren but at the last minute switched to Klobuchar.

“It’s hard because I needed to decide between my ideals, my love and making a strategic decision,” Townsend said. He said he liked Warren’s strength and intellect but added, “But I don’t think she will end up with the nomination because I don’t think she would be attractive to people in the Midwest.”

On the Republican side, Trump crushed his opposition throughout the Upper Valley, winning Newport with 624 votes to just 46 for former Massachusets Gov. Bill Weld. Weld did a little better in the more liberal towns of Hanover and Lebanon, though Trump handily won them as well, 161-91 in Hanover and 564-101 in Lebanon.

Jim Leslie, a 57-year-old mechanic in Claremont, said he backed Trump, as he did four years ago.

“Everything he has done for the economy, our borders,” said Leslie, who also expressed disdain for the impeachment proceedings against Trump.

“I thought it was a joke,” he said.

Valley News staff writers Nora Doyle-Burr, Liz Sauchelli and Patrick O’Grady contributed to this report.

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