By Sean Mussenden and Mark K. Matthews
Bill Landon clicks off the electric sander he’s been using to smooth out the wooden trim of the boat “Lubbers Quarters,” and ponders next month’s election.
“I know who I’m not voting for — Gore,” the 32-year-old manager of the Chestertown Marina finally says.
“But I don’t trust Bush either,” said Landon, a registered Republican. “He’s riding on his dad’s cuff.”
The lifelong Chestertown resident hasn’t ruled out any of this year’s third-party candidates, but confesses, “I’ve voted for a third party twice and it hasn’t paid off yet.”
Landon’s attitude was typical of voters who were interviewed recently by Capital News Service at stops up and down the Eastern Shore: Those interviewed said they distrust politicians, including both presidential candidates, and yearn for an honest politician in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Those voters who had made a choice in the presidential race were evenly split in the CNS interviews. An August poll by Gonzales/Arscott Research appears to back that up: While that poll lumped Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland voters together, it called the race a virtual dead-heat, giving Republican George W. Bush 46 percent to Democrat Al Gore’s 42 percent, with a 4 percent margin of error.
That yearning for an honest politician was one of the few areas where the voters agreed. They listed a broad range of issues as important — from the possibility of killer asteroids to a repeal of the income tax — and were just about evenly split on the presidential race.
Near the top of the list were concerns of environment, education and health care.
“Education is my main concern,” said student Kasey Rassmussen, 19, of Eden. “Schools are overpopulated and the classrooms are packed. If classes are smaller, violence will go down.”
Health insurance is the No. 1 issue for Diane Larrimore, an administrative assistant at Washington College.
“For a lot of very ill children and elderly, it’s a choice between being fed and going to the doctor,” said Larrimore, a Chestertown Democrat who would only admit to being in her 50s.
Asbury Jones will wait “until the last minute” to settle on a presidential candidate, but the 79-year-old Cambridge resident is certain about one thing: The government needs to raise the minimum wage and “make things better for the poor class.”
But other voters said they want to see the government do less, not more.
“I’d like to see the government keep their nose out of my business,” said Parsonsburg resident David Bush, a 61-year-old real estate agent. “I bought 20 acres of land — eight of it is wooded and the rest is open. I can’t touch five acres because of forest preservation (laws).”
Retired waterman R.L. Collison of Church Hill has his own opinions about government.
“I’d like to see `em straighten up government, and get rid of the deadweight,” said Collison, 60, an independent voter. “I know of one fellow who works in Washington with eight secretaries who fight to answer the phone. And he plays golf all afternoon.”
While they were united in their distrust of politicians, most of the voters interviewed made an exception for Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, whose district covers the Shore.
Gilchrest has a middle-of-the-road voting record, supporting the environment and Social Security, for example, but calling for President Clinton’s resignation during the Lewinsky scandal. That suits voters, many of whom said they know him personally, just fine.
“I’ve always voted for him, I know the girls in his office down the street,” said Margaret Morris, 71, a Christian bookstore owner. “I want someone who is ethical and doesn’t lie.”
But for most of those interviewed, politics took a back seat to the more pressing issues of day-to-day living. For Landon, there’s only one issue that really matters right now: “Getting this boat finished.”