Biden narrowly reclaims Claremont for Democrats 

  • Claremont, N.H., voter Kelly Bates steps up to a voting booth with her ballot at Claremont Middle School Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. “There’s so much turmoil in the world right now, I think we need a change,” said Bates, who was a “little apprehensive” at the polls. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Sarah Danly, of South Royalton, right, directs Claremont voter Jessica Cristini, left, to the Ward One polls at the middle school in Claremont , N.H., where both two of the city’s three wards vote Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Danly volunteered with the organizations SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) and Rights and Democracy with the stated goal of providing non-partisan voter protection, answering questions and listening to concerns brought by voters. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

  • Volunteer Will Greco, 18, a 2020 graduate of Stevens High School, manages the lines of voters as they wait to receive their ballots at Claremont Middle School in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/3/2020 8:44:48 PM
Modified: 11/3/2020 8:44:39 PM

CLAREMONT — Erica Sweetser had been a registered Republican until two years ago, when she changed her affiliation to “independent.”

President Donald J. Trump had something to do with that.

Outside Claremont Middle School, where two of the city’s three wards vote, Sweetser, 38, said Tuesday that she had voted for Democrat Joe Biden.

“I voted for Trump four years ago,” Sweetser, who is a member of the City Council, said Tuesday. “But we need a bridge to the other side of craziness.”

Unofficial results from Claremont showed Biden beating Trump by a count of 2,852-2,754. About 86% of Claremont voters cast ballots.

Four years ago, Trump won Claremont over Hillary Clinton, 2,680-2,529, a victory that seemed like an upset after lopsided wins for Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2008 and 2012.

Democrats concentrated extensively on Claremont in this election cycle. Elizabeth Warren made an early speech there during the presidential primary race, and Pete Buttigieg held a Fox News town hall from Stevens High School. Biden also campaigned there, including a stop at the Common Man Inn in January. The party saw in Claremont a scaled-down version of the country it needed to reach — mostly white, working class and often disaffected.

The close vote in Biden’s favor suggests that while some Claremont residents who voted for Trump in 2016 turned away from him, as Sweetser did, the president remains popular among working-class voters.

Keith Girard was a reliable Democratic voter until 2016, when he cast his ballot for Trump.

Twice, in 2008 and 2012, he voted for Obama, and still feels Obama was a good president. Now 60, Girard appears to have turned away from the Democrats. He started work as a truck driver in his teens and was a member of the Teamsters. He is now retired and on Tuesday he voted for Trump over Biden.

“I don’t want the Democrats taking my guns away,” he said outside the polls at Claremont Middle School. “I’m not afraid of Biden being president,” he added, but he doesn’t like Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

The “craziness” that Sweetser spoke of was little in evidence at the polls, as voters descended peaceably in great numbers. By 2 p.m., Ward 2 was closing in on 60% participation, ward Moderator Alison Raymond said. New voter registration also had been strong, she said.

But in conversation, some voters expressed unease with their voting options for president.

Pete Reynolds said he wrote in U.S. Sen Cory Booker, D-N.J., who was a candidate for the Democratic nomination before dropping out in January. Booker endorsed Biden in March.

He wrote in Booker “because I liked what he had and the other two guys are off-base,” said Reynolds, who voted “straight Republican” in 2016. “Mr. Biden is more of the same old stuff,” he said.

Bruce Livingston, 67, said he usually votes Democratic, and this year was no different. He had strong feelings about the incumbent.

“Donald Trump is a criminal,” he said. “He’s a classic, textbook, narcissistic sociopath, and he should be in prison for the rest of his life.”

But several voters said they voted for Trump in 2016 and stuck with him.

“I’m not going to vote for the Democrats no more, ever since Hillary got away with murder,” said Hugh Mangan, 69, a retired union glazier from Pittsburgh who’s been living in Claremont but plans to move back home.

The “murder” he was referring to was the 2012 killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, by Islamist extremists.

“All they’re in there for now is to enrich themselves,” Mangan said of the Democrats. Trump, on the other hand, “he’s got nothing to prove. He’s filthy rich.”

For others, Trump is a Republican, and that’s all they need to know.

“He’s got my conservative values,” said John Lashaunce, 55, who voted for Trump in 2016, Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008, Republicans all. Trump is “definitely not the Republicans of old,” he said. “He’s the fresh start.”

Lashaunce was at the polls with his daughter Sarah Lashaunce, 26, and he stepped away as his daughter talked about her vote for Biden.

Her belief in human rights and being part of the LGBTQ community compelled her to vote for Biden. She had voted for Clinton in 2016, too.

“We don’t talk about it,” she said of her political divergence from her father.

Claremont voters also decided four contested races in the New Hampshire House, as Republicans sought to wrest control from Democrats in Concord.

State Rep. John Cloutier, a Democrat, turned back a challenge from City Councilor Jonathan Stone, a former police officer with an interest in a gun shop in the city. State Rep. Gary Merchant, a Democrat, defeated former Republican lawmaker Paul LaCasse Sr., and state Rep. Andrew O’Hearne, another Democrat, bested Republican Patrick Lozito.

The lone Republican in the Claremont House delegation, state Rep. Walter Stapleton, held his seat against a challenge from Democrat Liza Draper.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.




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