At polls, many voters express support for Sanders 

  • Elise Paffrath, of Bellows Falls, Vermont, and Janet Langdon, of Putney, Vermont, show their support for Bernie Sanders on the corner of Federal and Main Streets in Greenfield, Tuesday, March 1, the day of the Massachusetts presidential primary. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD – Many Greenfield voters were apparently “feeling the Bern”  as citizens went to the polls Tuesday afternoon. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was overwhelmingly the most common answer from those who’d just finished slipping their ballots into the box, voters said in interviews with The Recorder. 

Kathy Scappace said the Vermont senator’s run inspired her to switch her party affiliation from unenrolled to Democrat this election.

“I wanted to vote for Bernie,” she said. “I like Hillary (Clinton), don’t get me wrong. But the thing Bernie cares about is people.”

Scappace said she also drawn to Sanders because of his decision to draw his campaign funding from small donors and his opposition to the Citizens United ruling in the Supreme Court, which held that the First Amendment bars the government from restricting political spending bycorporations and other large organizations.

“There should be changes and growth in the purposes of the government, and I think he’ll be the candidate to start that,” she said. “I won’t see it in my lifetime, but he’s our best hope for that.” 

By 1 p.m., Town Clerk Deborah Tuttle said about 17 percent of Greenfield’s 11,314 registered voters had turned out to the polls. Campaign signs for Sanders, Trump and Clinton stuck into the grass welcomed residents to the high school, where a steady stream of voters filed in and out.

Jason King was also a strong Sanders supporter.

“There’s a million reasons,” he said of his choice. “He’s the first political leader who matches my views one for one, top to bottom. This was my first vote that wasn’t for the lesser of two evils.”

King’s top issue this season is the economy, he said. He’s broke, he noted. And with $50,000 in student loans, he doesn’t ever expected to climb out of that hole.

“Bernie’s the only one with a solution to that problem,” he said, referring to the candidate’s proposal to introduce a free college tuition program.

Tess Gadwa, who owns Yes, Exactly, a small web design business in town, said she voted for Sanders because his policies and ideas stand the best chance of improving conditions for small businesses, specifically through redistribution of wealth to the people who patronize them.

“The divide between the rich and the poor in this country is seeing people lose their shot at a better life,” she said. “Losing out on equal opportunity leads to a whole host of other problems – gun violence, addiction, people tuning out. I think Bernie’s platform is the best hope for small business.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew her share of support, too.

Kris Weaver said he cast his vote for the former First Lady, U.S. Senator and secretary of state specifically because she had held so many different roles in government and in the White House.

"I think she just has more experience in government and foreign affairs than any other candidate,” he said. “I just don’t see Bernie as president, and Trump is a loser with too much money and radical ideas.”

Richard Shortell found himself turning out in support of Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump, who has been performing well in polls across the state. He counted himself among those who have become fed up with establishment candidates and the federal government.

"I would say we need a definite change. No more Clintons, no more Bushes. I'm so digusted with Washington, I'm willing to throw (chance) on the roulette wheel,” he said. Trump “is a diamond in the rough and he'll get polished once he's in office."

Still, other voters said they found themselves crossing party lines to boost the candidate they’d most rather see from the opposing side.

Christine Forgey, the town's former and first mayor, said she’s an unenrolled voter who, for the first time, voted as a Republican in the primary.

She wouldn’t disclose which of the GOP candidates she cast her ballot for, but said that she chose the one she felt was the most moderate because she wouldn’t mind seeing either Democrat in office.

“I’m not too worried about (them), they’re both viable,” she said. “The piece I put the most thought into was ‘Who would be the best challenger?’”

Reporter Domenic Poli contributed to this report.

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