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Few Tri-State voters swayed by debates

October 17, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - The debates leading up to this year's election were "like a war between presidents," said John Zello, 40. "It's like a fight."

Zello was among about 20 people at Valley Mall in Halfway and Martinsburg Mall in Berkeley County, W.Va., who were asked whether the debates between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry affected their Nov. 2 vote for president.

Few said they were swayed.

Zello, of Sharpsburg, said he feels the candidates "are running for power more than anything else."

He said, however, "I'm still voting for Bush."

Rick Nay, 44, of Shippensburg, Pa., said he watched the debates, but not because he needed help making up his mind.

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"I thought Kerry was a bloomin' idiot to begin with, and now I'm sure of it," Nay said. "That man (Kerry) couldn't answer a question to save his life. He sidestepped every issue and never answered the questions."

Kerry Riley of Shepherdstown, W.Va., already had picked her candidate, but has new supporting evidence. "One thing I didn't know was how condescending John Kerry was," said Riley, 48.

She said this came out through Kerry's dismissiveness of the United States' allies in the Iraq war and through his evasive answer of a woman's question about allowing government funding for abortions.

She also thought it was odd that Kerry mentioned Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter during a question about homosexuality. "Nobody in their right mind would claim somebody else's rhetorical material," Riley said.

On the other hand, Kerry's performance solidified the support of longtime Democrat Vickie Barthlow.

"Kerry was very influential," she said. "Originally, I was (a John) Edwards supporter. ... (Kerry) was all that. He was good."

Chris Murphy, 55, of Martinsburg, said she thought the debates "were very good this year. It distinguishes (Kerry and Bush) down the line."

Her vote was not influenced, either. "I am a Republican, always have been, and I would vote Republican nevertheless," she said.

"I already had my mind made up" before the debates, said Madeline Chevry, 40, of Martinsburg. "They just tell you what you want to hear."

"I watched it with the sound down - it was better that way," said Lana Harris, 38, of Hagerstown. She laughed and added, "You could watch their facial expressions. It was comical."

Harris said choosing a candidate will be "a last-minute decision."

But not for Stephanie Bryan, 21, of Chambersburg, Pa. "I hate George Bush, so the debates don't mean anything to me," she said.

Matt Howell, 36, of Shepherdstown, said he watched "just pieces" of the debates and they did nothing to make him think differently.

Wendie Traver shook her head when asked if the debates had an effect on her decision. "I fell asleep watching them," said Traver, 23, of Chambersburg. She said she is undecided.

The debates didn't affect Dawn Crouse, either, but not for the same reason. Crouse said she had her moments of boredom throughout the debates. But by the time the candidates took to their lecterns Crouse, 49, already had made up her mind.

"I'm a longtime Republican and I'm gonna vote for Kerry," said Crouse, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

John Murphy, 53, of Hagerstown, said he watched the debates and feels like he's close to a Bush vote.

"I'm leaning toward Bush, I believe," he said. "I'd say it's a little more towards his favor. Sounds like he's trying to hold up his end as president."

Melvin Polley, 71, agrees. "The president is real good. You can't beat him," said Polley, of Williamsport.

Robyn Behn, 37, of Chambersburg, Pa., said that Kerry "has said a few things that has helped me decide."

"All I can say is I'm gonna vote for the lesser of two evils," she said. "I'm giving my support to Kerry."

Emory Weller is not so sure. Weller, 23, of Chambersburg, said, "I'm still probably dead even."

"I think Kerry won all three of them, but I think he's crooked," he said, adding that he is undecided.

His friend, Miguel Torres, 27, also of Chambersburg, said he also is in the undecided camp. "Bush is more of a common man. Kerry seems more of an aristocratic type," he said. Torres said he has issues with Kerry's Social Security plan.

Donna Mason said she's not ready to go to the polls. Even though she watched the debates, Mason, 40, of Hagerstown, said, "I'm not gonna decide yet. I'm waiting."

Shaunte Taswell said she didn't watch the debates. Taswell, 26, of Hagerstown, said, "I don't vote."

Bernie Trost said he won't vote for Bush or Kerry. Trost, 20, of Hagerstown, said, "The election this year, it's just not right. I won't vote for either one."

Trost said he will "most likely vote for (Ralph) Nader or Al Sharpton."

Wes Adamson was one of the only people surveyed who changed his mind because of the debates. Going in, he leaned toward Kerry.

Adamson, 17, of Martinsburg - also the only person surveyed who's too young to vote - said his post-debate reaction was: "They make no sense. Vote for Nader. They should have allowed him to debate."

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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