In their words — Capital Region voters share their views of presidential election. Look for thoughts from:
- Matthew Jurcsak, of Ballston Spa
- Steven Elfant, of Schenectady
- Barry Nark, of Gallupville
- Nancy Wolfe, of Schoharie
- Daniel Becker, of Ballston Spa
- Patricia St. Andrews, of Scotia
- David MacDonald, of Ballston Spa
- Larry Zeglen, of Glenville
- Tim Torres, of Amsterdam
- Judy Hale, of Scotia
- Conrad Stergas, of Johnstown
- Greta Frasier, of Caroga Lake
- Mike Vance, of Fulton County
- Vicky Nellis, of Johnstown
- Brandon Ronca, of Glenville
- James Firman, of Howes Cave
- Jeremy May, of Schoharie
- Craig Anderson, of Wells
- Rita Colvin, of Milton
- Mina Sun, of Glenville
- Barbara Taylor, of Johnstown
- Victor Bailey, of Schenectady
Matthew Jurcsak, Ballston Spa
Matthew Jurcsak doesn’t like politics, but said he’s been forced to pay more attention to it in the past few years because of President Donald Trump and his norm-breaking behavior. He’s concerned about the election itself, and whether it can happen without major issues.
“I hope it’s fair and not going into anything crazy,” the 62-year-old Ballston Spa resident said. “There’s the pandemic first, and I fear the worst. I hope Trump doesn’t try to steal the election.”
Jurcsak, who is retired from the mental health field and is also a writer and musician, isn’t necessarily enthusiastic about Democratic candidate Joe Biden, “but between the two, Trump’s got to go.”
If Biden is elected, Jurcsak said, the new president has his work cut out for him. He’ll have to “dig us out of the mess we’re in now and improve our views in the world, and reverse some of the actions Trump has taken” on the world stage. Under a Biden administration, Jurcsak said, “hopefully it will be better and fairer for more people.”
Steven Elfant, Schenectady
Schenectady chiropractor Steven Elfant likes to ride his motorcycle into rural areas like Schoharie County to look at the changing of the leaves, but the rural serenity isn’t enough to ease his worries about the 2020 election.
“It’s a horror show, what’s going on in terms of voter suppression. It’s making our democracy a joke,” he said. “I see what’s going on with the Supreme Court, rushing a judge in with the possibility that she might rule on contested election results.”
Elfant said he’s angry about California Republicans operating vote-collection boxes in defiance of a court order, and Texas Republicans only allowing one vote-collection box per county, regardless of the population size of that county.
“They’re making us look like some kind of banana republic dictatorship,” he said. “The legitimacy of our democracy is at stake. The divisiveness that has gone on, the horrible rhetoric, the hate mongering, the fear mongering, white supremacists — and it seems to be incited from the top.”
Elfant said he’s critical of the way Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic, and he feels the president has actively spread the virus through his rallies.
Barry Nark, Gallupville
Barry Nark, a machinist who lives in Gallupville, said he hasn’t been happy with either Republicans or Democrats for a long time.
“They act like children, and this is what our children are looking up to,” he said. “On social media … I don’t think the president should be posting [expletive] on Twitter, Facebook. It’s immature and unprofessional.”
Nark said he was particularly turned off by the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden.
“That debate, I own quite a few firearms and I’ve got a big screen TV, and I’m lucky I still have my TV after watching that debate, it was like a circus,” he said.
Nark said he didn’t like the interruptions between the candidates, or the “stupid questions and the stupid answers.”
“We should focus more on the United States and be more self-sufficient, and kick the [immigrants] out of the country. We’re way overpopulated and can’t support the people we have,” he said. “I’m not really a Trump supporter. He did some good things, but he double-talks himself. But the media, I think, is to blame for some of that. If you want to know the real news, watch the BBC News.”
Nancy Wolfe, Schoharie
Nancy Wolfe, who has operated a laundromat in the village of Schoharie since 2013, said she supported President Trump in 2016 and she’s going to support him again. She said she wants the election to be over.
“It’s just the bickering back and forth,” she said.
She thinks Trump is better suited to helping restart the economy.
“So many businesses have closed that will never reopen again,” she said. “There are too many mom-and-pops that will never recover, and that’s all over, not just here. Trump’s a businessman, and a lot of the politicians don’t know anything. Overall, I like Trump, but he does have to be filtered sometimes.”
Wolfe said Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have had “good and bad” points with respect to the pandemic. She said she believes Biden has been inconsistent in his positions.
“The Democrats are too out of sync with real life,” she said. “We’ll use the wall as an example: What part of illegal immigrants don’t you understand? Illegal is illegal.”
Daniel Becker, Ballston Spa
David Becker of Ballston Spa is a registered Republican and votes Republican in local elections, but he said the last Republican presidential candidate he really felt comfortable supporting was Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. He’s definitely opposed to Trump. “I’m dissatisfied with what Trump has done over the last four years. You can’t believe a word he says,” Becker said, taking a break from walking his black Labrador retriever, “Chloe,” in downtown Ballston Spa last week.
At 65, the retired telecommunications worker said he’s supporting Biden, having also supported him on the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012.
“I just hope that Biden wins, and if he does, that Trump exits gracefully,” Becker said, alluding to Trump’s claims that there will be widespread voter fraud, and also his refusal to promise cooperation in a peaceful transition of power if he loses.
“I’d really like to see [Trump] disclose his taxes, too.”
Patricia St. Andrews, Scotia
Patricia St. Andrews is hoping to get the 22-year-old grandson who lives with her into his own apartment soon, and is awaiting the birth of her first great-grandchild in Hawaii, where her granddaughter is a Navy spouse. So politics isn’t the first thing on her mind these days. But Biden has her support this year — any Democrat running against Trump would.
“I made up my mind four years ago,” the Scotia resident said. “Trump has to go, and I knew that before he was even elected.”
Her two sons, though, are Trump supporters, the 72-year-old readily confessed. “We argue about it on the phone,” she said.
Most of her life, St. Andrews has been a mother and a homemaker; her three children and eight grandchildren are the biggest part of her life. “They’re all good kids,” she said.
She’d like them to inherit a better, fairer world, hopefully under a new president.
In the next four years, “I’m hoping we can make it a sane society again,” St. Andrews said. “Trump just says whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Racism is so bad.
Trump says keep low-income housing out of the suburbs. I’d like to see us have low-income housing. We need a little more equity in the world.”
David MacDonald, Ballston Spa
For the election, David MacDonald’s goal “is to get through it,” he said wryly.
As for the election year, “it’s definitely been tough,” said the 35-year-old independent sales consultant who lives in Ballston Spa.
MacDonald plans to support Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to be on a major national ticket, a point he noted. “I think we need a change in regime,” he said. “There’s been no leadership. Between the two of them [Trump and Biden], it’s a no-brainer.”
Outside a coffee shop in downtown Ballston Spa, MacDonald said he’d like to see more emphasis on racial and gender equity in the next administration. “Right now, we’re divided people,” he said.
“In addition to equality, having the country better positioned to tackle climate change and offer more comprehensive universal health care are two other pillars that I think would make the next four years successful,” he said.
Larry Zeglen, Glenville
Larry Zeglen is an in-country Army veteran of the Vietnam War — he was there in 1968-1969, the war’s height — and today he’s active in veterans’ issues and is commander of the local Glenville VFW post.
The 76-year-old Glenville resident is firmly in Trump’s camp, but said he just wants to see what’s best for the country, regardless of who wins the election.
“It’s the most important election of our lifetime,” he said outside a Glenville supermarket. “The things I fought against in Vietnam are now creeping into our country. There’s a lot of bias in the newspapers and that’s not going to change. I think every American should be concerned about this election.”
“I feel like if the other side wins, we will go backward,” he said, while still speaking respectfully of those who see things differently. “I feel very strongly about my side and the other side feels very strongly about their side, and I just hope we all do what is right for America.”
Zeglen is retired after a 40-year career at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna.
Tim Torres, Amsterdam
Jim Torres is out of work, and he’s hoping President Trump can help him solve that problem.
“I was working at the Dollar General distribution center and I got fired, my own mistake,” Torres, an Amsterdam resident, said of his most recent employment. “I brought a sandwich inside and I was trying to eat it. They caught me. I got fired on the spot. I am looking for work. Tomorrow, hopefully, God help me, I’ve got a good interview tomorrow.”
Torres said he’s currently trying to obtain unemployment benefits, but he’d prefer to return to work as soon as possible. He said he was born in Amsterdam, but was mostly raised in Puerto Rico, where his family is originally from. He said he already knows who he’s going to vote for, and why he’s going to vote for him.
“I’m just going to vote for Donald Trump,” he said. “I don’t know too much about politics, but I know he’s not a real political man. I seen him doing a lot more than a lot of other presidents.”
Torres said Trump’s rhetoric against illegal immigrants is a key part of why he supports him.
“For example, he’s just focused on the wall, that was a good thing,” Torres said. “I’ve felt like before I was losing a lot of jobs to Mexicans. I was in New York City, so it was like, I’m American — I was born here — and Mexicans would take less money for the same jobs as me. In fact, I’ve even trained some Mexican people to do my job, and then the boss was laughing and said, ‘I’ve got to let you go, he’s going to do it for $7 when I was paying you $14.’ I’m talking about the food business. I saw a lot of Mexicans and a lot of Ecuadorians doing that in New York City, so we need that wall because they’re taking our jobs, and they’re good workers, too.”
Torres said he thinks it was wrong of some Puerto Ricans to be upset at how Trump responded to the damage done during Hurricane Maria, including Trump visiting the island and tossing out paper towels.
“People in Puerto Rico complained that he was throwing paper towels at them, but that was ignorant,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something he did in a mean way.”
Judy Hale, Scotia
Fifty-nine-year-old Judy Hale works part time at a Schenectady plastic surgery practice — she said business is booming, after being slowed by pandemic concerns in March — and last week she was getting ready for her only daughter’s wedding, planned for Saturday. She is a lifelong Republican who is supporting Trump for re-election.
She believes most people should work and pay their own way in life — a core fiscal philosophy of many Republicans. The Democratic political campaign promises about what government could do for people, discussed so widely during the primary season this year — free universal health care, tuition-free college — turn her off.
“I just believe everyone should work, or try to work, and not get handouts,” she said. “There shouldn’t be so many handouts to people. My daughter just graduated as a [physician’s assistant],and she got nothing for free.”
Hale’s mother died in February, and Hale feels lucky to have been able to hold a normal funeral for her, just weeks before the pandemic struck and shut down most social gatherings, including funerals.
“Twenty-twenty has not been good to me,” she said.
Conrad Stergas, Johnstown
Conrad Stergas says he’s afraid of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
“If Biden-Harris get in, they’ll destroy the United States of America as we know it today,” said the Johnstown resident. “They will change the dynamics of this country. They will destroy the United States Constitution. They will misapply it. I would say every aspect of it, the First Amendment, Second Amendment, freedom of religion.”
Stergas said he believes Biden and Harris will take away people’s guns and “defund the police.”
He explained how he forms many of his opinions.
“I don’t read newspapers or magazines. Whatever information I get, I get from my computer, on the internet, you know what I mean?” he said.
“I watch Fox News on the internet, and that’s all I do.”
Stergas said one of the things he’s most afraid of is socialism.
“You ever been to Communist China? I was there in 1985 — they were all riding bicycles and all pedaling at the same speed,” he said. “That was in 1985. Today it’s different. I think Trump will bring back manufacturing from China to the United States. I think he did as much as he could the first time, given all of this Russian collusion and all of this fabricated, falsified efforts by the Democrats.”
Greta Frasier, Caroga Lake
Greta Frasier believes President Trump will be re-elected.
“I think people are more focused on the economy and what he’s shown he can do for it,” said Frasier.
In a second Trump term, her hope will be for him to “get more people off of services and more people working.”
Frasier said one of her biggest issues is the Supreme Court. She said she wants Judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed before the election. She said people need to be concerned about the pandemic, but there should be fewer restrictions on small businesses.
“People have to be cautious, but I think if Wal-Mart can control hundreds of people, then a mom-and-pop place can control dozens.”
Mike Vance, Fulton County
Mike Vance, a National Grid worker who lives near Northville, said he thinks the 2020 election season has been a mess. He said he believes the country is on the wrong track, and has been for many years.
Vance said the government’s response to the pandemic is high on his list of issues.
“One thing that amazes me is that there is a faction in the United States who believes it’s all fabricated,” he said. “My answer to them is that I might buy that if the U.S. was the only country affected by this, but the whole world is affected! How could it be fabricated?”
Vance said he doesn’t know anybody who likes to wear masks, but he does it to help slow the spread of the virus. He said he’s hopeful for a vaccine. He said he knows who he’s voting for, but he’s keeping it to himself.
Vicky Nellis, Johnstown
Victoria Nellis, who works in the city of Johnstown’s treasurer’s office, said she’s undecided heading into the election, and the coronavirus pandemic is the reason why.
“I had been a Trump person all along, but COVID-19 is making me question that,” she said.
Nellis said she thought the economy was going well until the pandemic.
She said she has relatives and friends who are committed Trump supporters, but the impact of the pandemic and the inadequacy of the federal government’s response to it have caused her to hesitate to vote again for Trump.
“I think COVID-19 has taken over everything,” she said. “I’m not sure. Some people say it’s all political. I just want the election to be over with to see if it is or it isn’t. I have three young granddaughters, and it makes me nervous.”
Brandon Ronca, Glenville
Brandon Ronca, a social worker who lives in Glenville in Schenectady County but works in the village of Schoharie, said he’s not sure if he’ll vote this year. He said his voter registration remains at the location of his former home, a place he moved away from five years ago, making voting cumbersome for him.
“I’m likely … if I vote at all, it will be for Biden,” he said. “I would have to drive out of my way to vote, so it will depend on how busy I am that day.”
Ronca said he doesn’t support President Trump’s re-election.
“I’m not passionate about Biden, because the alternative is not something I want to support,” he said. “I don’t agree with a lot of Trump’s policies. There was a time when I was registered as a Republican, and then I went on a libertarian kick in my college years. I don’t vehemently disagree with Trump’s fiscal policies, but on social issues, immigration, I don’t like the whole evangelical bent to some of his policies.”
James Firman, Howes Cave
James Firman said he used to work at Wal-Mart, but is now disabled. He said he favors President Trump’s re-election.
“I think he’s done the country good in the past few years he’s been working,” said Firman, of Howes Cave in Schoharie County. “I think he’s trying to make things better for us, better economies, and really working hard and pushing for the stimulus checks to help us out.”
Firman says the pandemic has led to “trying times,” but he’s not sure what he thinks about the Trump administration’s response to the virus.
“I’m up in the air about that. I really don’t know what to think about it,” he said. “I don’t like to get into battles like that. That’s one of my medical problems. I don’t like confrontation, so I don’t like listening to arguments or debates or anything like that. It really bothers me.”
Firman said his biggest issue is economic recovery, and he worries most about corruption in politics.
“I know there’s a lot of different rumors, like the ordeal that happened with — what was it? Russia, I think — and Trump, they said, and Hillary Clinton’s emails and all of the big-business corruption,” he said. “There’s got to be a way to fix them. I don’t tend to believe in the rumors without really good proof that it actually happened. I mean, you can be good with another country, and it doesn’t mean you’re conspiring against each other.”
Jeremy May, Schoharie
Jeremy May, a heavy-truck mechanic who lives in the village of Schoharie, said from his perspective, the 2020 election has featured a lot of controversy and a lot of conspiracy, and he thinks a recent QAnon conspiracy will play into how voters choose between President Trump and former Vice President Biden.
“New facts are coming out against the Democrats, but I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, so I don’t care,” he said. “SEAL Team Six, and the knowledge coming out about who knew about it, and what was done, and misguided information.
“That’s the nice way to put it — I’m ex-military — I was just briefly in the Army, I got hurt,” May said. “I just think that there’s not enough — what’s the PC term — transparency in what’s happening nowadays with what’s out there. I’m not sure Trump is the best. I’m not sure Biden is the best, but those are the choices that ‘they’ made for us.”
May referenced the QAnon conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama and Biden mistakenly ordered a military strike on a body double of Osama bin Laden and then ordered the members of Seal Team Six be assassinated to cover up the error. The conspiracy theory has been widely condemned by U.S. military leaders and by the former SEAL Robert J. O’Neill, who has claimed to have been the one who shot bin Laden, but President Trump has retweeted the conspiracy theory on his Twitter account.
May said information coming to light in the form of conspiracy theories or news coverage will tell the public the truth about the candidates. He said he knows who he won’t be voting for.
“I will not vote for Biden,” he said. “I watched part of the debate the other night. Trump is still our commander in chief — ‘Shut up, man’ is not acceptable. Pardon me, or excuse me, something like that. If you ever said something like that in the military, my drill sergeant would have pushed me to another continent.”
May said Trump’s actions may be disrespectful at times, but he thinks Trump supporters like that about him.
“He’s more just a commoner. I don’t think he was raised truly as a politician,” he said. “He’s the common man’s man. Money doesn’t buy intelligence.”
Craig Anderson, Wells
Craig Anderson, a truck driver from Hamilton County, said he’s all for President Trump’s re-election.
“He tells it the way it is,” Anderson said. “He’s done what he said he was going to do. He built the wall. He’s not really a politician. He does what he’s supposed to be doing.”
Anderson said some of the other major reasons he supports Trump include: the Second Amendment; his stance against illegal immigration; and the economy.
Anderson said he knows Trump told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the coronavirus because he didn’t want to panic the public. Anderson said he thinks that was a good idea.
“He was pretty upfront with people, but he didn’t want to panic a lot of people,” he said. “It’s serious, a lot of people have died from it, but a lot of people have survived it too, including him.”
Rita Colvin, Milton
Rita Colvin of Milton is a retired schoolteacher who will admit only to being over age 80. She taught mostly in the Brittonkill Central School District in Rensselaer County, and sometimes substituted in Ballston Spa.
She thinks Trump has done a good job over the past four years and in general doesn’t get the credit he should for his job performance. She plans to vote for his re-election.
“In general, I think the media is really biased and not telling the truth,” she said. “Biden is a puppet of the far left and if he is elected, we will see socialism in the country. The problem is young people don’t really know what socialism is, what it was like in a socialist country like Czechoslovakia,” she said, referring to the central European country that was a satellite state of the Soviet Union — behind the Iron Curtain — from just after World War II until 1989.
“I am a supporter of Trump. He has done a lot for our country and he did the [pandemic] stimulus,” she said.
Colvin also believes Democrats are wrong to criticize Trump on health care, despite the president’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes a mandate that medical insurers cover pre-existing conditions when enrolling new participants. Trump has never detailed a plan to replace it, but Colvin noted coverage for pre-existing conditions shouldn’t be an issue.
“He has promised to cover, and never said he won’t cover, pre-existing conditions,” she said.
Mina Sun, Glenville
Dr. Mina Sun, who was born in Taiwan and came to the United States at age 7, practices internal medicine in Glenville. She remains an undecided voter in a world where many voters have taken a position and dug in.
“It’s kind of an unusual election,” she said. “That’s because of the pandemic. People can’t campaign like they usually do.”
While Sun doesn’t expect to make up her mind until she gets her ballot — she says she’s always been that way — there’s no question in her mind that the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest issue the country is facing, and not just because of the health implications, having made millions of people sick and killed more than 217,000 people nationwide, the highest total in the world.
The pandemic and its impacts will be the main thing the next president has to deal with, she said.
“It’s the social, mental and economic impacts on the American people,” Sun said while completing a grocery trip. “I don’t think one person alone can do this. We’ll be feeling the impact for a decade. The impact of the pandemic is such that it’s going to take more than one administration to pull out of it.”
Asked about the time frame she sees for recovery, Sun pointed to recent history, to the long and troubled recovery from the 2008-2009 downturn often called the Great Recession.
“This is definitely worse than the last time, and look how long it took to come out of that,” she said.
Barbara Taylor, Johnstown
Barbara Taylor said she’s been a Republican all of her life, but she can’t vote for Trump.
“I don’t like President Trump,” said Taylor, the longtime president of the Wells House Auxiliary. “I don’t like him as a person. I think he’s very narcissistic and I think he thinks about himself, and he doesn’t think of how things affect other people, whether it’s social injustice or the pandemic.”
Taylor said the coronavirus pandemic is one of her top issues and she believes Trump has shown a lack of leadership.
“He says to people, ‘just go out and get this,’ like the normal person will get the same treatment he’s gotten,” she said. “I dislike him as a woman, because I don’t think he’s treated women fairly. I don’t think he’s treated any minorities fairly.”
Taylor said she’s been dissatisfied by the negative rhetoric she’s heard during the 2020 campaign.
“For me, it’s turned out to be a very nasty election, and I’m concerned about how people are treating one another,” she said. “It seems like nobody says anything nice. There’s no compassion for anyone. Everyone says something horrible. That’s not the way we want the world to be, especially now with this health crisis.”
Victor Bailey, of Schenectady
Victor Bailey, Schenectady
Victor Bailey used to work part time at Proctors prior to the pandemic shutting down the theater, but he’s now unemployed — “it’s the pandemic” — though he receives disability payments, due to a bout with leukemia.
The 59-year-old plans to vote for Biden, though in his mind a vote for the Democrat over Trump is a vote for “the lesser of two evils, in my book.”
“I just hope everyone can play fair, and I hope the politicians align with the people instead of big business, for once,” he said in Veterans Park in downtown Schenectady.
Bailey believes that both major political parties, at the end of the day, are more likely to side with big business than the interests of ordinary people.
Asked about his hopes for the next four years, Bailey said he’d like to see the United States adopt some of the government policies well-established in Europe to promote the general social welfare.
“We should have some European standards and practices. After all, most of us are descended from European countries. Free college, free health care — those are things that really need to happen.”
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