By Sarah Anchors and Tracy L. Fercho
ROCKVILLE – As he fed banana slices to his 1-year-old daughter outside Congressional Shopping Center, Dan Dufresne was already looking beyond the Nov. 3 elections to the day when his little girl will be going to school.
Dufresne, 31, said that while Montgomery County schools are good now, he is worried that their quality will decline as more and more families move into the area.
“I would like to see Maryland invest in a teaching program that pays part of the tuition for teachers if they then stay and work in the area for at least two years,” said Dufresne, a Rockville retail buyer.
His concerns were echoed by many of the 34 voters interviewed on Oct. 1 at offices, stores and coffee shops across Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. They said education will be foremost in their minds when they cast ballots Nov. 3.
Barbara Ann Harris is so upset by the current state of Maryland’s public schools that she let her bus pass by so she could stay at her bus stop and continue to vent her anger over the situation.
“We’re getting royally screwed here,” said Harris, 51, a nurse from Riverdale.
Harris is angry that the state is spending money on professional sports stadiums while the schools are in what she considers bad shape.
She said a friend who is an elementary school teacher has more than 40 students in her class, many of whom are immigrants. Her friend has to spend so much time with those students, Harris said, that American-born children are falling behind.
After the school mess, those interviewed seemed to be most concerned about “this whole Clinton mess,” in the words of Debbi Kopp, 43, of Rockville.
But while most of those interviewed said the question of impeachment is the top issue before Congress, they also said Congress could best spend its time on other matters.
“It should be something more important, but that seems to be” the issue occupying the nation now, said Gloria Newberry, 72, a University Park retiree.
Most of those interviewed in the heavily Democratic Washington suburbs said Congress should drop its investigation of the president. Nineteen did not think Congress should take any action against Clinton, nor did they think he should step down.
“He made a mistake and he’s paying for it enough,” said Hilda Chideis, 33, a nanny from Rockville.
Although most of those interviewed said they plan to vote Nov. 3, few had decided who they would be voting for. Some were still trying to decide whether they would vote or not.
Jimi Kolawole, 20, a salesman from Hyattsville, sees Election Day as “just another day.”
Robert Saul, 47, a mechanical draftsman from New Carrollton, said he is not sure if he will vote this year because he is not happy with the candidates.
Dissatisfaction with politicians was a common theme among potential voters in the shadows of the nation’s capital.
Frank Chatmon, 65, of Landover, said elected officials need to “stay in touch with the people. Once they’re elected, we don’t see them again until the next election.”
Suburban voters said they are looking for elected officials who are honest, loyal and will take care of the people. But congressmen are losing touch with their constituents, many said.
“They haven’t walked the streets and listened to the common people,” said Harris, the nurse. “Americans are frustrated and the politicians better wake up and smell the coffee.”
Joseph Palmer, 69, of Bowie, said that elected officials need to “keep in mind who voted for you, who elected you. Keep your promises.”
But Palmer, who was taking a cigarette break outside the Bowie Town Center, said he has never missed an election and he doesn’t intend to let the current crop of politicians deter him.
Voting is “the absolute greatest thing in America,” the retired civil servant said.