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  • Walter Roach, 19, his mother Pam, 47, and sister Kayla, 18, voted together in Milford along with their father, Walter Roach Sr. The family all said they voted for the same candidate.

    Photo by Hattie Bernstein
  • Mark Weithman was leaving the polls in Merrimack with his wife, Dorothy, and their 19-year-old daughter, Ariel, who had just voted for the first time. The family came out to support Obama.

    Hattie Bernstein photo
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voters head to cast their ballots at the Amherst Street School in Nashua Tuesday, January 10, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    From left, Tom Zajac, his son, Jamie, Lissa Carmeiro, and Catalina Zajac look over a list of candidates inside the polls at St. John Neumann Church in Merrimack Tuesday, January 10, 2012, during the New Hampshire Primary Election.

  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Voters line up inside the polls at St. james Church Tuesday, January 10, 2012, in the New Hampshire Primary Election.

  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Voters enter the polls at St. John Neumann Church in Merrimack Tuesday, January 10, 2012, during the New Hampshire Primary Election.

  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Jon Hamel slides his ballot delicately into the Democratic Primary voting machine, Tuesday afternoon at Milford Middle School.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Theresa Larouche re-declares herself as an undeclared voter after voting in the Republican Primary, Tuesday afternoon, at Milford Middle School.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Nancy Curley emerges from a voting booth at Hollis-Brookline High School, Tuesday afternoon, after voting in the Republican Primary.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Kim Johnson exits from Hollis-Brookline High School gymnasium, Tuesday afternoon after casting her vote in the Republican Primary.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Maureen Lund hugs William Marshall at the Ward 3 polling place, Charlotte Avenue School, on Primary day, Tuesday, January 10, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Six-month-old Ashton Vanderburgh was pegged with a sticker from his sister after his mother voted at the polls in Merrimack Tuesday, January 10, 2012, during the New Hampshire Presidential Primary Election.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Voters make cases with ballots, words

After months of listening to candidates, pundits and pollsters, it was finally the voters’ chance to be heard.

As with any primary, there was excitement and disgust; anger and elation.

Take Ron Stephan, 71, a retired transportation consultant from Nashua.

“I’m totally disappointed with the candidates they have come up with,” Stephan said.

“Romney has run before, Gingrich has been around for decades, Rick Perry isn’t going anywhere,” he said.

“We have to have better candidates, but I went with Huntsman; he’s at least worked with both Democrats and Republicans.”

Or duty-driven John Goy, 54, a security officer at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and a Nashua resident.

“It’s our God-given right in this country to vote, and I’m proud to do it. People fight and die for the right we have, and we should never take it for granted,” Goy said.

“I decided to give Romney a shot. You really don’t know how he’s going to do because it depends on how Congress gets divvied up.”

“All the candidates have strengths and weaknesses; I like the fact Romney has created jobs because we sure could use those.”

Again and again, voters expressed the GOP flavor that was most attractive to them.

Elizabeth LeClaire, a loan officer and flight attendant, went with Ron Paul.

“A lot of people feel he’s extreme ideologically and his campaign is a pipe dream, but I’m an optimist and he stands by what he says, and I respect that.”

Jason Shreck, 31, a Nashua ski technician who is currently unemployed, had jobs on his mind.

“I’ve been trying to find work and there is just nothing out there.”

“We need somebody who can create jobs, and Mitt Romney looks like that guy to me.”

Charles Robinson, 62, an advanced engineer mechanic in Lynn, Mass., and registered Democrat, gave his commentary on the GOP field.

“I don’t think the voters like the fact there has been so much infighting among the Republican candidates.”

“I don’t believe any of them have stood out, and I think it bodes pretty well for the president’s re-election.”

All about Obama in Hollis

HOLLIS – Robert Scott of Merrill Lane considers that voting is his civic duty. On Tuesday morning, what motivated him were the letters “A,” “B,” and “O.”

“Anybody But Obama,” the 62-year-old custom home builder explained.

The polls here opened at 7 a.m., and Scott, who was among the wave of early voters, said he came armed with information culled from watching the debates and attending a symposium in Manchester on Saturday sponsored by National Review magazine.

“With the social media and the Internet, you really can get as much information as you need,” Scott said. “But I still value the effort the candidates make locally.”

He didn’t name his pick, however.

By contrast, Depot Road resident Joe Elliott, who runs a science education company, was quick to provide the name of his candidate.

“Barack Obama,” the 63-year-old voter declared. “I believe in what he’s doing, and we don’t need any more right-wing nut jobs running the country. We need to take care of all of the people, not just some. We have an obligation.”

Elliott said he started doing his political homework early.

“I listen to ads and they nauseate me, frankly,” he said. “The things Mitt Romney says in his ads. This isn’t a failed presidency. The Republicans created the problems for the Democrats. George Bush, the venture capitalists ... When we talk about Wall Street, we’re talking about Mitt Romney. ... They don’t create jobs, they fire people. It’s how they make money, from firing people. They cut overhead to make more money.”

Faye Farrington, 62, a high-tech manager, said she voted for Romney.

“We need someone who knows the economy. It’s most critical,” she said. “We’re at a crossroads as a country, either a European-style welfare state or free enterprise, a clear choice in my mind.

Farrington said she met Romney recently and “it made a difference.”

“It was confirming,” she said.

Tina Murguia, 47, a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, said she had voted for Romney.

“I wanted someone who could beat Obama,” Murguia said.

Meeting the candidate cemented her choice, the voter added.

“It makes them seem like a real person,” she said.

And Murguia had company, Twiss Lane resident Roberta Vigliani.

The 48-year-old Massachusetts native who works as a business manager for a Boston publishing company said she was comfortable with Romney, given he’s a familiar face and known quantity to her.

“He’s been around a long time,” she said. “I felt strongly for him from the start. ... I’ve known of him for years, and I appreciate what he did in Massachusetts.”

Desperately seeking change

AMHERST – Before he went to Souhegan High School to vote Tuesday morning, Bill Walton, 82, played a round of golf with a group of friends who don’t think the way he does about politics.

“I’m the lone Democrat,” said Walton, who is retired from IBM.

Walton said he and his wife, who share similar views, have been following the candidates “religiously” and discussing their positions and merits. Conversations with his golfing buddies have not been so harmonious.

“It’s a charade with a bunch of clowns,” Walton said of the Republican lineup. “The one I did like is Huntsman, a moderate Republican.”

Walton said he was “disgusted” by the partisanship in Congress as well as the tea party and “the radical right,” which he believes “wants to control a person’s life” while opposing government regulation.

Walton, a Marine veteran, said he was also looking at military service in the candidates’ families: “Romney has five sons and none of them are serving,” he said.

By contrast, Huntsman has “two sons in the U.S. Navy.”

Shelly Kayser, 42, a stay-at-home mom, had a different viewpoint.

“Primarily, for me, it was replacing the current president with someone I thought could do a better job,” she said, adding that she made her decision by watching the televised debates.

“I kept my mind open and listened,” Kayser said. “I didn’t meet the candidates.”

Others, including Burt Knight, 82, a retired executive, said he always votes.

“It’s my civic responsibility,” he said. “We can’t complain about government if we’re not willing to participate. If we’re going to be citizens, we’ve got to share the opportunities and responsibilities.”

Roberta and Lee Harrington agreed with Knight’s take on voting.

But they also said they were looking for a change in the national leadership.

The couple, who are older than 50, own and operate a business in Nashua.

They said they have concerns about the economy, but they didn’t choose the same candidate.

“We need a change, for sure, with the economy,” said Roberta. “In general, a lot of people are fed up.”

Her husband, Lee, agreed.

“The economy is number one,” he said. “Obama has been a total failure.”

By the end of the brief conversation, Lee said he was leaning toward Ron Paul.

“I liked what he was saying.”

Fired up in Merrimack

MERRIMACK – It was a tad chilly standing outside St. John Neumann Church on Tuesday, but 49-year-old Mark Weithman was fired up.

“You’ve got the economy, health care, jobs, everything all mishmashed together,” said the father of three who has been unemployed for the past 20 months. “There’s not one issue.”

Weithman didn’t divulge his candidate, at least by name.

“My candidate didn’t do the rounds,” he said, adding, “He’s a shoe-in for the Democratic ticket.”

Weithman said long-term unemployment and the recent loss of health care insurance for himself and his family have strengthened his belief that ideas count more than party,

“I watched the debates, and they’ll blow smoke at you when, in reality, the president doesn’t have that power. You have to get the Congress to do that.”

Weithman was leaving the polls with his wife, Dorothy, and their 19-year-old daughter, Ariel, who had just voted for the first time. The couple also has two younger children.

“I asked around and gathered information,” Ariel Weithman said. “It’s pretty exciting to help determine who’s in charge.”

She said she felt both obligated, and privileged, to vote.

Only Dorothy Weithman, however, came right out with her pick.

“I voted for Obama. I like Obama,” she said, adding that the partisanship in Congress, not the president, is responsible for what’s happening in Washington.

“You can make all the promises you want, but if you don’t have Congress behind you, you’re stuck,” she said.

Evelyn Anziano, 70, was standing nearby waiting for an entry into the conversation.

A retired nurse and teacher, Anziano said that making a decision was “very difficult.”

“I don’t go for a lot of words, a lot of promises,” she said. “I feel they can’t do anything unless Congress is behind them.”

Anziano said she didn’t meet any of the candidates who came to the state to campaign, although she watched the televised debates.

“I watch the various channels and listen, and then I pray,” she said.

Kelly Shimmel, 50, a homemaker and small-business owner, was wearing a red, white and blue sticker on her shirt indicating that she had voted.

“I think New Hampshire voters have a rigorous process,” Shimmel said. “All the candidates, all the races. We listen to the debates, attend the rallies, talk to the candidates.”

Shimmel said she studied Web sites, watched the news and considered the candidate that would “be the best for our country.”

She didn’t say who among the Republican candidates had won her vote.

“I believe any of these candidates is better than our president,” she offered, adding, “The political process should play itself out, and we should vote our conscience knowing that there’s never any perfect candidate.”

Getting out the vote

MILFORD – Chelsea Einsidler-Moore went to the polls three times Tuesday: once to vote, and two more times to bring friends.

“I Facebooked and texted it,” said the 23-year-old, who runs her own business. “Our age group never really votes.”

Einsidler-Moore said she didn’t recommend any candidate, or ask her friends whom they planned to vote for. But she did make an argument for participating in the primary.

“Not a lot of people just out of college have a job,” she said. “But we can vote for who is going to be looking out for us.”

And Einsidler-Moore also reminded her friends that not voting could have dire consequence.

“The more people who don’t use it, the easier it is to take it away,” she warned.

No one had to convince Martha Hubbard, a nursing assistant, who was leaving the polls at the Milford Middle School in the late afternoon.

“I want to make a difference, and I want to be heard,” Hubbard said.

The voter said she didn’t meet any of the candidates. But she spent plenty of time listening to radio talk shows and watching local and national television news.

“Most important is the economy, and the second thing that’s very strong for me is pro-life,” Hubbard said.

Walter Roach, 51, his wife, Pam, 47, and two of the couple’s three children, Walter, 19, and Kayla, 18, voted together, and for the same candidate.

“It’s our right, and we need to make changes,” said the father, a Marine veteran who works as a machinist and voted for Ron Paul.

Roach said he favors Paul’s stand on immigration, a position his wife, a produce clerk, and their two teen-age children, share.

Marti Kennedy, 47, a stay-at-home mom, said she didn’t meet any of the candidates campaigning in the state in recent days. But her mind was made up before any of them arrived.

“Even though my choice was easy, I came anyway because it’s our civic duty, a right and a privilege,” Kennedy said.

All about jobs in Brookline

BROOKLINE – “I voted on principle and what messages (candidates had) as far as what was important,” said Anthony Lombardi, 46, an engineer.

Justin Dapolito, 20, a math and chemistry major at the University of New Hampshire, was voting for the first time.

“I like Mitt Romney, probably the best,” Dapolito said. “His skills can bring back the economy better than the other candidates.”

The college student said he feels voting this year is critical, particularly for young people.

“We’re in a time that we really need to be represented. We’re under the control of people who don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.

He said he follows current events and reads primarily conservative literature.

“A lot of kids don’t vote when they’re 18, 19,” he said. “They wake up when they get to college. ... At 20 years old, you’re an adult.”

Scott Delage, 42, a sales representative, said he was voting for change.

“We did our research online,” he said.

His wife, Sandra, 45, a nurse, said she was particularly concerned about the future of health care, particularly as it affects an aging population.

“Health care reform is a huge concern,” she said.

Others, including Jane Lancaster, 68, who is retired from the insurance industry, said jobs are at the top of her list.

“I’d like to work part time, and it’s hard to find jobs out there,” Lancaster said, adding that keeping jobs in the U.S. “means a lot.”

Lancaster also lamented the size of the federal deficit.

“I have grandchildren,” she said.