In region’s only 1st District town, hot topic is Palin

MERRIMACK – Merrimack voters were nearly identical with most 1st Congressional District communities Tuesday, stamping former U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley’s ticket to the general election against Democratic U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

But voters from both parties going to the polls couldn’t help but comment on the hottest name in politics at the moment – Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

While Bradley is on his way to a rematch with Shea-Porter and John Stephen will contemplate his next career move, voters were busy talking about the issues that mattered to them.

Pat Maloney was one of the few voters who trickled into the St. James United Methodist Church on Tuesday afternoon. She said the Bradley/Stephen congressional race was the main reason she showed up.
“I don’t want to see Carol Shea-Porter back in,” Maloney said. “I’ve had to call her for a few different issues . . . They’re like, ‘What are you calling for?’ ”

Maloney voted for Bradley, whom she met at an event years ago. She said she believes in him because he said he won’t ever stop funding troops overseas.

“It’s time for them to change things back,” said her husband, Bernie Maloney. “They’re a do-nothing Congress . . . Bradley is not a do-nothing guy.”

In town, Bradley beat Stephen, 51 percent to 45 percent, or 653 to 583 votes, a difference of about 70 votes, in results that were reported shortly after 9 p.m.

By 11 p.m. with more than 30,000 ballots counted in towns around the state, the race looked nearly the same – Bradley with 51 percent and Stephen with 46 percent. Two other Republicans, Geoff Michael and Dave Jarvis, received slim numbers of votes.

In all, voter turnout was very low. Of 17,821 registered voters in Merrimack, just 1,895 cast ballots Tuesday, about 11 percent.

“When two people come in, it’s like, ‘Wow!’ ” said Millie Brightman, an election volunteer.

Steve Anderson, a Bradley supporter was one of those voters.

He said he wanted a candidate who’d track the country’s spending and keep it in check.

“I work hard for my money . . . and we waste so much of it,” Anderson said. “I don’t think we’re doing enough to deal with that.”

Anderson said he was inundated with mailings from both candidates, but that Stephen’s struck a more negative tone without focusing on the issues. Anderson also liked Bradley’s previous Congressional experience.

“It’s a comfort,” he said.

In contrast, Bill and Bea Lampen voted for Stephen because Bradley’s already had a bite at the federal government apple.

“All of their ideas are the same,” Bea Lampen said outside the St. John Neumann Church polling place. “But maybe (Stephen) will come up with something different.”

“I believe in term limits,” Bill Lampen added. “If they don’t do what they say they’re going to do, they’re out.”

Frances DesGrosseilliers said she’s a registered Democrat, but wanted to vote for Stephen in the general election if he won.
“I would like to see him win,” she said. “I know he’s worked hard.”

DesGrosseilliers added that she also plans to jump ship to John McCain in the general election. She said she respects McCain’s military service and his choice to remain a prisoner of war in Vietnam, rather than leave early.

“And I love Sarah Palin,” DesGrosseilliers said of McCain’s dynamic vice presidential pick. “Everybody does.”

Indeed, Palin’s name was a popular one during primary day in Merrimack.

“I said, ‘Wow. We’ve got somebody up there with some guts,’ ” Bernie Maloney said of his first impression of Palin. “She’s a very exciting person. I don’t care if the vice president is a man or a woman, as long as she stands up for the American people.”

“Although Palin hasn’t got any national experience, when she gets to Washington with McCain, I think they might actually kick some ass,” said Mel Tye, who owns Tye’s Top Tour and Travel.

Chances are a lot of people feel the same way about both candidates vying for president. The lines are sure to be a lot longer come Election Day on Nov. 4.

Brightman already has a plan in place to survive the day.

“I’m think I’ll get a nice big cup of coffee,” she said, with a laugh.