By KATE STONE LOMBARDI
Published: October 24, 2008
DECIDED Howard Chung with his son, Marcus, at the Galleria Mall food court in White Plains, said he would vote for Senator Barack Obama.
“I thought the last debate would help me make up my mind, but I turned it off about three-quarters of the way through because there was too much bickering,” said Ms. Trumpbour, 42, who lives in Bedford and writes for her own beauty Web Site.
Ms. Trumpbour, a registered independent, remains undecided, which was unusual among about three dozen people who were interviewed recently in Mount Kisco and White Plains. Most of those interviewed said they were supporting the Democratic ticket headed by Mr. Obama. That’s not surprising in a county where 44 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 27 percent are registered Republicans and 29 percent are registered independents, unaffiliated or registered with minor parties.
But Ms. Trumpbour’s ambivalence about the candidates was typical, even among those who said they were committed to a candidate.
Ms. Trumpbour, working on her laptop at a Starbucks in Mount Kisco, said that she worried that Mr. McCain was “an extension of Bush in many ways” but that “there is something I don’t trust about Obama.” She is concerned about Mr. McCain’s age (he is 72) and believes that while Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska “sets a wonderful example, especially for girls, I really don’t think she is ready to be the vice president or to govern.”
She said she would decide after immersing herself in Time magazine and other publications. Ms. Trumpbour said she would probably have regrets, whomever she pulled the lever for.
Some voters were confident with their decision.
“Why am I voting for Obama? Have you got an hour and a half?” asked John Rodner, a retired math teacher who lives in Yorktown Heights. “It could be the foreign policy. It could be education. It could be the economy. It could be Sarah Palin. They all stand out.”
Suyapa Olivo, 38, who lives in Yonkers and is a patient caseworker for a New York City hospital, is a longtime supporter of Mr. Obama. She said she believed he would help middle-class voters like herself by cutting taxes and giving students tax breaks. Though Ms. Olivo has health insurance through her employer, she said she was concerned for those who are unemployed.
“It feels like the middle class won’t benefit from McCain,” she said. “And $5,000 towards health care is just not enough.”
Anne Miller, 73, cited concern about the direction of the Supreme Court as the main reason she is voting for Mr. Obama. Ms. Miller, a White Plains resident and retired preschool teacher, said she also worries about health insurance. She has coverage, but her grown daughter does not.
“Roe versus Wade and the whole shift of the court, health care, the economy, global warming — you name it,” Ms. Miller said, taking a break from shopping at Sears. “McCain comes across as a cranky old guy who doesn’t speak to the issues and raises phony issues like Joe the Plumber and William Ayers. I used to like him, too. He used to seem to have integrity.”
Doug Geddes, a real estate consultant and registered Conservative, is a strong McCain supporter. Mr. Geddes, 46, of Lewisboro, said he believed that McCain’s policies reflected his own views of fiscal and social conservatism.
“I’m worried we’re on a path to an extreme movement to socialism,” said Mr. Geddes, who was reading The Wall Street Journal at Starbucks. “Barack Obama thinks I’m rich and I’m not rich. I live in a condominium. I drive a Honda Accord.”
He said his taxes were already far too high and he worries that they will climb even higher if Democrats control the White House and Congress. “Pelosi, Reid and Obama — it’s just going to be a disaster,” he said. “What are they going to ask — another $20,000 from me in taxes? I don’t have it to give.”
Others expressed ambivalence about their choice. Khamar Maitland, 24, was shopping at the Galleria Mall with his mother and younger brother. Mr. Maitland, who works at Morgan Stanley in Purchase, recently decided to vote for Mr. Obama, but not without giving Mr. McCain’s candidacy serious thought.
“There were some things that McCain was saying that made sense,” Mr. Maitland said. “I’m pro-business, and for us to raise taxes on business, that would diminish the creation of jobs. But I’m against the war, and the middle class definitely needs tax breaks.”
Nearly every voter cited the economy as a major concern.
“I’m definitely not voting for McCain and trying to talk myself into voting for Obama,” he said. “It’s more likely that I’ll write in Barry Goldwater. I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal.”
Mr. Walker said he was very angry about the Iraq war and was shocked that it took the economy to shake people up.
“It’s like, you can kill our sons in Iraq, but don’t mess with our 401(k)’s,” he said. “Honestly, I can’t believe that people don’t seem to hold the Republican Party responsible for the current situation. If the election is close, I’ll vote for Obama.”
Many voters said they were concerned about Mr. McCain’s age, and others objected to his choice of running mate.
“I’m voting against Palin,” said Nancy Torrellas, 45, a lawyer from Ardsley. “I was originally going to vote for McCain because I think he’s very pro-Israel, until he picked Palin as his running mate.”
Ms. Torrellas said she would vote for Mr. Obama, but wasn’t happy about it. She said she was worried about his affiliation with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but believed Mr. Obama had “the smarter ideology and understanding with respect to my family’s needs.”
Her friend Deborah Notis, with whom she was having a cup of coffee, has decided not to vote at all. Ms. Notis, 38, of Chappaqua, called Mr. McCain “an American hero,” but she also objected to Ms. Palin.
“If you could guarantee me he’d live for four years, I’d probably vote for him,” she said of Mr. McCain. “But Sarah Palin is too extreme, and she doesn’t come across as someone who has any capacity of leading this country.”
Ms. Notis, who is not registered with either party, also refuses to pull the lever for Mr. Obama, who she says is not strong enough on terrorism. She said she was living in Battery Park in downtown Manhattan on 9/11; her husband was on the ground floor of one of the towers but escaped.
“Israel and terrorism are my biggest concerns,” she said. “It’s my perspective that he is not pro-Israel enough. I also think that as much as everyone in Westchester County wants to vote for him, after their taxes go up after $250,000, people are not going to be happy. But the most important thing to me is that whoever gets into office keeps this country safe.”
Howard Chung, 36, said, “If I voted with my wallet it would definitely be for McCain, but without the Democrats I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Mr. Chung, a stay-at-home dad who was sharing some fries with his son Marcus at the Galleria food court, said he would vote for Mr. Obama. Mr. Chung said he grew up on welfare and was grateful for the opportunities it provided him. He recently sold his shares in a restaurant business; before that he worked in finance. His wife is an investment banker on Wall Street.
“We have benefited from the boom for the last nine years or so,” Mr. Chung said. “But at this point I am really concerned. I’m a huge believer that the existence of a middle class is absolutely critical for the United States. From a pure tax situation, I would think that most Westchester residents would benefit from McCain, but are we going to worry about short-term tax breaks or about the bigger picture?”
Many voters said they did not see any quick relief from their worries, no matter who is elected. Linda Serkin, 62, a registered Democrat who lives in Katonah, said she was voting for Obama but not enthusiastically.
“I don’t see a clear person who can lead this country out of trouble,” she said. “I’m worried about taxes. I’m about retirement age. I can’t give away my house, let alone sell it. I don’t see either one of these guys getting us out of this mess.”