Herbert H. Frank of Hancock had a chagrined look on his face when asked for whom he voted in the last election, then what characteristics he desires in a president.
“Clinton,” he answered first. After a short pause, he answered the second question: “Honesty.”
Despite the seeming inconsistency, Frank was steadfast.
“I think the last eight years, Clinton’s done a good job,” said the 58- year-old retired Ford employee. “If I could vote for him again, I would.”
His wife Eleanor nodded in agreement as the two sipped ice tea on their front porch.
Of the 15 Western Maryland voters interviewed by Capital News Service in a statewide survey of voter attitudes, four others said they voted for Clinton and seven listed honesty as the most important presidential trait.
CNS reporters interviewed 131 Maryland voters on Sept. 22. In Western Maryland, nine Democrats were interviewed, four independents and two Republicans.
In Hagerstown, Michael Eugene Conway, 51, sat in front of his house on Franklin Street having a cigarette and looked up from his magazine to talk politics.
“I think every American has a right to medical treatment regardless of cost,” Conway said. “The price of prescription drugs needs to be lowered so the elderly can afford it.”
Conway is a chef by trade and a Democrat by voter registration. He said he knows people who must choose between food and prescription drugs, so those issues are important to him.
At the Getaway Caf, on Centre Street in Cumberland, owner William T. Balboa, 53, is going to write in his own name on the presidential ballot because he’s dissatisfied with the choices.
“Taxes are killing the small business,” said Balboa, a registered Republican who votes in every election. He said he’s losing ground to franchises.
Laura Snyder, 36, owns and runs a small gas station in Hancock at the intersections of Route 40, Interstate 68 and Interstate 70. She and her husband both run the shop and he works two jobs.
Ask her if the economy is just perfect.
“I don’t think so, from what I hear people come in here griping about,” she said. Snyder hasn’t voted recently, but says she will vote for Bush if she can make it out to the polls. Taxes and gasoline prices were the most important issues in the election to her.
William D. Ryan, owner of Van Meter’s Gas & Grocery in tiny Flintstone, just wants politicians to compromise on important issues facing the country. The 69-year-old independent hasn’t made his presidential choice yet.
Asked whether he favored shoring up social programs or receiving a tax cut, Ryan replied, “Compromise. Let’s be intelligent about it. They’re both legitimate requests. Why be for one?”
Amid the folks milling around Baltimore Street in downtown Cumberland, Vicki Miller, 36, a legal secretary from Ellerslie, said she wants a president who understands the problems real people face.
“Come down to our level,” she said. “See what average people go through. Have them go down to social services and get processing. Have them try to live on $800 a month.”
Miller plans to vote for Gore.
Bush leads Western Maryland polls, according to the latest Gonzales- Arscott Research survey. The company’s August poll gives Bush 52 percent, Gore 34 percent, Nadar 8 percent, Buchanan 2 percent and 5 percent undecided.
At the Hagerstown Post Office, the Rev. Anne Weatherholt, 47, an Episcopal priest running errands from Hancock, stopped to talk about the elections. She is a Democrat who is undecided about the presidential race.
“I wait until a week before, after I’ve heard everything they have to say,” she said. The issues she will be watching are health care, Social Security and candidates’ understanding of America’s diversity. Most importantly, she plans to vote.
“Participate. Get out there,” she said, “because this is the essence of America.”
The deadline to register to vote in Maryland is Oct. 13.