Will 3rd debate satiate Berkshire residents left wanting for policy?

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LENOX — Rick Elworthy and Jimmy Sarmuk share a lot of things.

They live at the Curtis House in Lenox and on Tuesday afternoon were side by side, in dueling sunglasses, on a bench by the Lenox Library. Sarmuk under his Patriots cap; Elworthy's cap sports a fishing hook.

But Wednesday night, when the third and final presidential debate begins, they won't be together. Sarmuk can't stand to watch. Elworthy wouldn't miss it.

When asked to explain, Elworthy, a 67-year-old former Marine who spent his work years blasting rust off oil tanks and bridges, said he is determined to watch Republican candidate Donald J. Trump go down to defeat.

"I want to see him make of fool of himself," said Elworthy, a veteran of the Vietnam era who plans to vote for Hillary Clinton. "Any moron who says he loves war doesn't belong in [the White House]. It's time for a female and she's more than qualified."

Two dozen interviews around the county found people drawn to Wednesday's national political spectacle but also a bit repelled by what they've been hearing. They want the candidates to focus on issues in the 9 p.m. debate, which is on Fox and will be moderated by Chris Wallace.

After watching the second debate, Mary Culverwell, 67, of Adams, had trouble sleeping. Early Tuesday she was getting the kinks out at an outdoor chair yoga class in Adams.

"It's the drama. It shouldn't be this way," she said of the campaign. "It was mainly Trump. A president should not act like that."

Maryanne Kufs, 65, of North Adams, was soon having Culverwell and a dozen other yoga practitioners rotate their hips at the edge of a sun-swept yard of the Adams Visitor Center. She wants substance in the final debate, not accusations, and she says she still doesn't grasp the candidates' positions.

"I feel we haven't had a meaty conversation from them," she said.

Around the corner, Dave Tarjick, of Cheshire, a 10-year patrol officer with the Cheshire Police Department, was on a private duty detail keeping an eye on a paving project for the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. He might not be as watchful Wednesday night when the 90-minute debate begins.

"It's sad that the country's come to this," said Tarjick, a 43-year-old independent who usually votes Democratic. "Normally I would watch. It's more like a reality TV show. Neither one of them is talking about the issues. Too busy slinging mud at each other."

As a foster parent, Tarjick says he's concerned about human services spending and is leaning toward Clinton. He believes government needs to address the opioid crisis and other social issues.

"I just worry that the Republicans will take that away," he said.

Down at Adams Town Hall, Jay Chavarry, 60, of Dalton, was zipping about in his UPS uniform getting the morning priority packages delivered. He knows where he'll be Wednesday night: in front of a TV.

"I wouldn't miss it, he said."

But he too wants to hear about policy.

"I'd prefer to stick to the issues," he said. "The whole campaign has been insults."

His advice to the candidates?

"Stick to the issues. Both sides (of the voting public) say that's what they want to hear, but it's not what they've been hearing."

Inside town hall, a memory of a bumper sticker had Susan King, of Cheshire, laughing at her desk in the assessors' office. "Nobody for president," it read.

"I thought it was great," said King, 62.

She describes herself as undecided — and afraid. She'll be watching the last matchup, "because I'm interested in hearing what they have to say about this country. ... It's just a very tough election."

Tough, and perhaps unprecedented, as far as Andrew Meisberger sees it.

Around lunchtime, Meisberger was practicing his approach to the practice green at the Country Club of Pittsfield, chipping golf balls toward miniature pins on a green flecked with fallen leaves.

"I'm 52 and I've never seen anything like this," he said, in a tone of disgust. He said he could bear to watch only minutes of the earlier debates and feels now that neither candidate will win his support.

"You can't change their spots," he said. "They are who they are. They are pretty vile people. I can't vote for Hillary Clinton."

Later in the afternoon, Derek Boateng, 18, and Johannes Nightingale, 16, both of Pittsfield, were talking about videos and filmmaking in a shady outdoor walkway at Berkshire Community College, where both are students.

"I wish I was voting for Barack Obama, or someone like him for this election," said Boateng, a nursing student.

He will instead cast his first vote in a presidential contest for Clinton, but will do so reluctantly.

"I don't want to vote for any of them. But Trump I don't like anything he says," he said. "His ego is higher than anybody. If you want to be president you can't have an ego like that."

Nightingale, who took his first college course at age 12, called Clinton "the best option of two evils. I would vote for Hillary not to see Trump in office," he said. But being 16, he'll get his first chance to vote in a presidential contest in 2020.

At the Crossroads bar on Onota Street, Mary Young, 55, who leans Democratic, was musing about the lack of specifics in the earlier debates. The bar's open doors brought warm drafts and scents of foliage.

"There are very serious things at stake," she said.

Young plans to watch the debate with her partner.

"We're not missing No. 3," she said. "It sickens me that they're not talking about the real issues, but I can't not watch. It's too important."

Young has nine grandchildren and worries about the world they'll inherit.

"At least she (Clinton) has a plan. She takes the position of president seriously," she said. "Trump is not offering solutions to our problems. He's playing on fears, like the Muslim issue, and crossing the border."

Back on the Lenox bench, Elworthy had this advice for candidate Clinton: "Say as little as possible and let Trump do all the talking — and bury himself again. The longer he talks, the deeper he digs his hole."

On that, his buddy Sarmuk, 64, was in full agreement.

"That's a good idea," he said. "Let him dig his hole and bury himself in it."

After talking politics, Sarmuk was warming up to tuning in, if only briefly.

"I can't watch it for more than 5 minutes," he said.

If You Go ... Community Debate Watch

What: Panel discussion and public viewing of the final presidential debate

When: 8 p.m. tonight 

Where: Berkshire Museum, 39 South St. Pittsfield

Cost: Free and open to the public with first-come, first-served seating. The event is co-sponsored by the museum and The Berkshire Eagle.


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