Voters have their say on Super Tuesday at Berkshire polling places


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PITTSFIELD — From a random sampling at the polls in several communities, Berkshire primary voters on Tuesday were all over the political map but united in a burning desire for change.

"I am going to vote, and I'm going to vote Republican, because I'm conservative and I have conservative values," said P.J. Pannesco, outside the polls in Lanesborough. "And I don't see either one of the Democratic candidates being what I would vote for."

Pannesco added, however, that he was still undecided who to vote for, "and as I walk through there, I'll probably make a last-minute decision."

That's because, he said, "It would be hard to vote for [Donald] Trump because he is just so out there, just so out there. I'll probably vote for some guy who will not ever make it, like Ben Carson." He laughs. "You know, my vote will be wasted because he's not going to make it past today; unfortunately for me."

Bill Matthiesen, also a Lanesborough resident, described how some voters are reacting to a turbulent primary season. He said a young woman told him she was debating whether to take a Republican ballot and vote against front-runner Donald Trump in the party's primary

"She said, 'If I do that, which Republican should I vote for?" Matthiesen said, adding that the woman was torn over which party ballot to take as well as who to support or try to derail.

Some Democrats, he said, seem troubled over the choice between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, in part because they are looking for a candidate who can win in November. He said he ultimately leaned toward Clinton, "Although I love what Bernie is doing."

"You know, I was an old hippie from the '60s, and I was very idealistic," he said, "and I guess that the reason I'm more for Hillary is I can see after all these years, and all that has gone down, that actually getting stuff done is really important."

"I'm voting for Trump," said Shawn Lampiasi, outside the polls in Cheshire. "If this system can't get shaken up, then it's going to go down, the way we've been going."

Lampiasi said the Republican Party establishment doesn't grasp Trump's appeal to voters. "The people are telling them something, but they don't get it," he said. "They think they are in charge, and that to me is terrible."

Bob Barry, of Cheshire, said "It's a strange year. I think Trump is a joke, and I think Sanders is a joke, but I think he will probably win."

He said of Sanders, "I think he's peaked. I think he's got a chance in Massachusetts, but that's about it ... I would rather have someone like [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich ... But you have to yell and scream this year to be heard, the Republicans anyhow."

At the polls in Dalton on Tuesday afternoon, Sarah Harvey said, "It's hard to choose a candidate that I'm 100 percent for, because all the candidates are so polarized ... I feel like there's a lot of wild cards thrown in there."

Asked how the entire primary season has gone, Kevin Kowalczyk said, "I think on the Republican side, they are having an issue — the establishment — in that the front-runner Donald Trump is obviously not part of the mainstream party. But I think three or four are still in the race on that side, and I think those four are all kind of taking votes from each other, so I kind of feel bad for people who vote in that direction because their vote will be kind splintered."

On the Democratic side, he said, Sanders is now projected to beat all of the Republicans in the general election, while Clinton is only projected to beat Trump, which he said would be a major factor in his voting choice.

Kowalczyk said he is focusing now more on the outcome in November than on the primary contests, but he agreed with Harvey that, "I think it's really hard for voters to pick a candidate" in 2016.

Harvey said, however, that she definitely would not vote for a Republican because of the party's stances on social issues, particularly reproductive rights for women.

Back in Pittsfield at the polls at Conte Community School, Sanders advocate and campaign worker Ray Alt said he believes his candidate "will do well in the states he is supposed to" on Super Tuesday, including Massachusetts, Vermont and Colorado, and begin to turn around what appears to be momentum for Clinton after he victory in the South Carolina primary.

Sanders recently has outdone Clinton in fund-raising, after staring out around Memorial Day at a huge disadvantage in terms of campaign strategy and planning, Alt said, and he believes that will be a factor going forward toward the convention.

He said name recognition also has been a factor in Clinton's favor, but Sanders has been building his now and should be able to complete well in the primaries after Super Tuesday.

"It's so hard to get [American's] attention, so you need a long process," he said, especially given the many distractions competing with the political process.

But Sanders could find the dynamics of the nomination race shifting more toward him, Alt said, leading to his taking "a boatload of delegates" into the Democratic convention. "It should be a very interesting race," he said.

Whatever the outcome, Alt said, laughing, he had a moment of fame at the Sanders victory party after the primary in New Hampshire, when a video of him dancing went viral on the Internet and elsewhere.

"I am really appalled by how many people are interested in Donald Trump," said Kent Mikalsen of Pittsfield. "It says something about where we are as a people, which is kind of scary to me."

Mikalsen said his most important interests are in controlling the widespread surveillance of Americans that grew after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, which he believes has gone too far, and in enacting strong campaign finance reforms and reducing "corporate control of the media."

Sanders is his candidate, Mikalsen said, because "he stands for everything I've always hoped we could be. And he has been in that same stance for his whole career. I like that about him."

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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