By Rachel Brown, Amy T. Silva and Riyad Mathew
Central Maryland voters cannot agree on which presidential candidate they like better. They cannot agree on which government programs need additional funding. They cannot agree on President Clinton’s effect on this year’s campaign.
They can agree on one thing.
“(GOP nominee George W.) Bush can take his tax cuts for the rich and stuff `em,” said Dotti Dasher-Riddle, 58.
The retired Taneytown nurse summed up the feelings of most of the voters interviewed by Capital News Service last month in Carroll, Arundel and Baltimore counties as well as Baltimore City. They would prefer to see the government’s surplus spent on health care, education and Social Security, rather than Bush’s proposal for a 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut.
“Tax cuts aren’t going to do much for the individual,” said Democrat Warren Barton, 72, a Dundalk retiree. He said the surplus should go toward programs that aid the middle class and the poor. “The rich got theirs, we need ours,” he said.
But voters’ aversion to tax cuts did not necessarily translate into votes for Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee. While voters in Baltimore and the close-in suburbs were leaning toward Gore, a majority of the Carroll County voters interviewed said they are going to cast their ballots for Bush.
“It seems to me that Gore is a great follower of a platform that is already existing,” said Kurt Michelsen, 25, a mortgage broker from Westminster. Michelsen, a Republican, believes that Bush has leadership qualities that Gore lacks.
Distrust of Gore was common among Carroll residents. Their emphasis on moral values reflected a desire to restore what Michelsen called pride in the White House.
“I think that we’ve all been exposed to some embarrassment and I think that right now it doesn’t affect us,” he said. “But I think in the long run these past four years will not reflect well on our country’s morals.”
Clinton’s character also crept into the comments of a few Anne Arundel voters. Myrtle Bolly, a 54-year-old Republican homemaker from Millersville, said she wanted to elect a president “who could keep their hands to themselves.”
While Bolly will be voting for Bush, she was not disappointed that a majority of Anne Arundel and Baltimore residents interviewed favored Gore.
“Both candidates are good,” said Bolly. “I’m for Bush, but I wouldn’t be terribly upset if Gore won. Either one would be OK.”
Democrat Kathleen Cronch was less certain about her vote. She said she was probably leaning toward Gore. But she had more on her mind than just her Nov. 7 decision. The 56-year-old Anne Arundel retiree was concerned about her elderly father, who she said is crippled by the cost of prescription drugs.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “If I didn’t have the money he would be. . . up a creek.”
Cronch is not the only one feeling the pinch of drug prices. Except for Carroll County, where morality was the No. 1 issue, health care was a top priority among voters in 41 informal interviews conducted throughout central Maryland.
Barton said politicians need to help the average citizen deal with the costs of medical coverage.
“I like to see them (presidential candidates) help the seniors,” he said. “Let’s get this Medicare taken care of.”
But Barton, like almost all of those interviewed, said their lives have stayed the same or improved during Clinton’s last term. Only a handful said things were worse now than they were four years ago.
Baltimore resident Pat Long, a consultant at Verizon, said she makes more money now than she did four years ago and she is counting on Gore to continue the prosperity.
Those voting for Bush also conceded that the economy is currently strong, but they had a different take on what produced their personal success.
“The country is better off because there is a surplus. I am better off because no more is coming out of my taxes,” said security guard Bill Fisher, 38, a Republican from Dundalk.