New Yorkers at polling sites around the city weren’t satisfied to just let their votes do the talking for them on Super Tuesday. Many had lots to say about the candidates, the campaign, the country –and themselves. Here’s a sampling:
In 2004, Janet Pommells, a Coney Island resident since 1990, crossed party lines to vote for George W. Bush because she believed his rhetoric about Saddam Hussein and the war in Iraq.
“But that turned out to be a lie,” she said.
So Pommells cast her primary ballot for Sen. Barack Obama, whom she believes will bring the troops home.
Beyond the war, the 40-year-old nursing-home agency supervisor expressed some common voter concerns: healthcare and the economy.
“It’s a depression,” she said, “though they don’t want to tell you that.”
She doesn’t have anything against Sen. Hillary Clinton. But after one Clinton presidency, Pommells said, it’s time to “Give someone else a chance.”
Richie Messing, a life-long Democrat, was on the fence for a while about whether to support Clinton or Obama.
“I like Obama, I really do,”he said. “I think he’s probably less corrupted as a politician.”
Nevertheless, he decided to cast his primary ballot for Clinton.
“Hillary is more electable,” said the 46-year-old educator, who lives on the Coney Island-Brighton Beach border in Brooklyn.
There’s been a lot of talk about “change” – but Dr. Louis L. Peralte has his own definition.
“Change is just a word,” Peralte said at the Flushing High School polling site. “I want change but Obama is not the right man.”
A staunch Democrat ever since he emigrated from France in 1965, Peralte voted for Clinton.
The 60-year-old family physician who works and lives in Flushing, Queens, said the former First Lady has White House experience while Obama doesn’t have enough seasoning. “That lady knows what she is doing,”he said.
“Obama’s time will come but we need Clinton now.”
Helen Ladoucey voted for some who isn’t running anymore.
“I am anti-Bush,”said Helen Ladoucey, a housewife from Flushing, Queens. “He is the worst President ever!”
The sprightly 87-year-old voted for John Edwards even though the former North Carolina senator has scrapped his campaign. “I know he is not going to win, but his name is still on the ballot,” said Ladoucey.
Ladoucey believes that Edwards was unfairly treated by the media and was “caught up in the melodrama” of history-making runs by Clinton and Obama.
“John Edwards had the most comprehensive healthcare plan, but people were only concerned about his $400 haircuts,” she said.
Collin Pelle’s father roused him out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to make sure the 22-year-old voted before heading to work.
But the South Bronx native said he did not need his father’s wake up call. The hope that Obama could win the Democratic nomination, the young Pelle said, got him out of bed before dawn.
“Obama definitely has some issues that he wants to take care of,” said Pelle.
Pelle’s father, Gary Pelle, a Vietnam War veteran, had some more specifics observations.
“I’m an Army guy and I know what we have to do in Iraq and I trust Obama will do the right thing,” said 55-year-old Pelle, dressed in a dapper button down shirt with a wool cap that matched his beige pants. “It is not about experience, it’s about trust.”
Margaret Bramble is two weeks away from having her second child and three credits away from completing a political science degree. She arrived at her polling station in the South Bronx to cast her vote for Hillary Clinton.
“I think she has a better chance of passing a healthcare plan because of the experience she has gained,” said Bramble, 38, who speaks softly with a slight Caribbean accent.
“A women might have a different perspective on how to deal with our international relationships,” said Bramble, who added that her husband also supports Clinton.
“Since I am the one with the degree in political science, he usually listens to me,”she said.
A tall man sporting a leather jacket and a tan turtleneck zipped all the way up to his chin stood on the edge of Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, handing out Obama flyers. But on Super Tuesday, he was still immersed in the Super Bowl.
“The people who are voting for Hillary look like Patriot fans,” said 30-year-old Curtis Bolden. “People voting for Obama are full of cheer, like Giants people.”
“I believe he’s gonna help spread the wealth,” Bolden said. “But on the same note, I believe he’s a stern dude and he’s gonna make people work for the money.”
Bolden, who is African-American, said he is especially excited about what Obama’s presidency would mean to minorities.
“African-Americans have really struggled in past decades. He was influenced by that. I think he will look out for all minorities as a whole –even non-naturalized citizens,” Bolden said.
Jennifer Keiser Gordon, 35 and David Gordon, 38 of Park Slope, Brooklyn have been married for almost four years and they have seen eye-to-eye on everything –until now. Over dinner Monday, David told Jennifer he would be voting for Barack Obama.
“I get an evil look once in awhile –whenever it’s brought up,” David said.
“I don’t believe him! We’ve actually given money to Hillary in the past and he said he was voting for her just a few weeks ago!” said Jennifer, shaking her head and sighing. “I don’t like it.”
“Just because you support a candidate, doesn’t mean you have to vote for him,” David told Jennifer.
“You’re a flip-flopper,”she replied.
Sometimes familiarity can play into a voter’s decision to choose a candidate. James Sims, of Richmond Hill, Queens, looked back at the Clinton years as a time when the United States was in a better condition.
“With Hillary in there, even if she screws up, Bill will be there,”Sims, 34, said.
Some young supporters of Barack Obama have not only found a presidential candidate, but someone to aspire and look up to, like a respected teacher or family member.
Shelly Rivas, 23, of Ozone Park, Queens, is one such Obama supporter. Obama’s message of change and his background outside of politics has drawn her and other young voters.
“He inspires me to get involved in the political process more than any other candidate in my life,” she said. “You can say it’s emotional, but my gut instinct is to go for Obama.”
Rivas said that, as a Latina, she can relate to Obama’s multi-cultural background. She also said his experience as a community organizer in Chicago and his abandonment of a career as a corporate lawyer contributes to her high opinion of him.
But her biggest source of inspiration doesn’t come from Barack, but from his wife, Michelle Obama. “I love Michelle Obama,” she said. “She’s someone I relate to. She inspires me more than he does.”
Standing as close as he could to the orange and white “no soliciting” signs posted around St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, a young man in a crisp white zip-up jacket passed out “Vote Obama ‘08” fliers.
“Hi, please vote for Obama,” said Zoe T. Whisnanat, 25.
Some people took the four by two inch pieces of paper, but most just shrugged him off.
“Obama was the first to bring real change,” said Whisnanat, a West African native and now a Brooklyn resident. “Everything he said, the others adopted.”
This election is the first for Whisnanat, who became a citizen two years ago.
“When he [Obama] is talking to you, you know, he is really talking to you,” Whisnanat said.
Rep. Yvette Clarke, of Brooklyn, stopped by the Van Dyke II polling site in her Brownsville district on Super Tuesday. With a Hillary Clinton button on her lapel, Clarke walked around inside and spoke to some of the workers at the tables.
Clarke said that she backed Clinton because of her record as senator, her push for universal healthcare, and her struggle for economic equality.
“She has come forth with some of the best plans,” said Clarke. “Given her tenure in the White House with President Clinton, she knows how to deliver.”
And don’t count Clinton out of the youth-vote race, Clarke said.
“She’s blogging, she’s on the net, she’s everywhere,” Clarke said. “I think that is exciting a lot of young people.”
The only thing certain about the youth vote in this year’s primary election is that nothing is certain.
Will Kitcher, 21, of Midwood, Brooklyn, has voted in every election since he turned 18. But today he almost forgot to show up at the polls.
“I didn’t know it was the primary until my friend sent me a text message this morning,” he said. “I just rolled out of bed and came.”
Kitcher, who voted for Clinton, came to the polls with his friend Lily Frost, 20, of Ditmas Park. Frost was still undecided and planned to vote later in the day. “I’m not sure who I will vote for,” she said, “I think I’m going to get in and randomly decide.”
“All my friends are leaning towards Obama,” said Frost, “And it seems like all women want a woman president, but I don’t know the difference between the candidates â€” I feel like they both have the same opinions,” she said.
Tim Stock had been planning to vote for Clinton, but changed his mind a few days before Super Tuesday.
“I can feel the momentum,” said Stock, a 41-year-old advertising strategy consultant who voted in Greenwich Village. “I feel very good about changing to Obama.”
His first-choice candidate was no longer in the race.
“I was originally for Edwards,” he said. “Then, when he wasn’t doing so well, I went for Hillary because it looked like a fait accompli.
“I want to make sure the Republicans don’t win, so I want to elect someone who can beat them. And now I feel like Obama could really do it.”
Ralph Christian is a Clinton supporter – barely.
“The divisiveness in this country is leading to destruction,” said Christian, 66, before voting at an elementary school on W. 11th Street in Greenwich Village.
“I think Hillary’s time has come around, and when someone’s time comes, you’ve got to give them a chance,” he said. “As an African-American man, I’ve seen a lot of chances come and go.”
As to why he felt an urgency to vote for Clinton this election cycle, the retiree said, “Obama still has a lot of time.”
Sabrina Bozek is a fresh-faced 24-year-old brunette who moved to New York City from Florida six months ago to take a position at a public-relations firm in Manhattan. A regular voter, Bozek wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to vote for her favorite candidate for the 2008 election: Barack Obama.
Minutes after casting her vote, Bozek stood outside her polling center at the Gay and Lesbian Center on W. 13th Street and gushed over Obama.
“I just think he’s the most charismatic candidate we have right now,”Bozek said. “As much as I like Hillary, I think most of America doesn’t identify with her as much as they do with Barack Obama.”
Bozek credits Obama with getting young people to come out and vote. “People my age especially are coming out in droves. I think that’s really important,” she said. “I think only a candidate like Obama can pull it off.”
Bozek, who says the way things have gone over the past seven years has made her “really annoyed,” believes America is ready for a black president.
“If there’s a time, it’s now,” she said. “The color line has been totally blurred. There are definitely people around the country that would disagree but I think the majority of America has the right head on their shoulders and doesn’t look at color.”
A striking young woman in a colorful ensemble stepped out of the Metropolitan Community Church on West 36th Street smiling after casting her vote for Obama.
Though Rajiah Williams, 26, now lives on the Upper West Side, she is still registered in her former neighborhood of Chelsea. So she made a special trip to her old polling place during her lunch break from her marketing job on Super Tuesday.
Obama’s tagline, “Change we can believe in,” was the first thing about his campaign that spoke to her. “I really relate to that concept,” she said.
Williams, who is half-Korean and half-black, said Obama’s mixed background is another element with which she strongly identifies.
Still, Williams is hesitant to bet Osama will beat the Republican candidate in November. “I feel like if I were to think about that too realistically, then I might not have voted for him,” she said.
Gloria Sostre, 31, a stay-at-home mother of three in East Harlem, paced nervously outside her polling place this afternoon, puffing on a cigarette in the drizzling rain.
“Think, Glory, think,” she muttered. “This is really important.”
“I’m still here thinking who would actually win against the Republican,” she said. “It’s last minute. I’m really struggling. I want to make sure this vote counts.”
Sostre grew up in the Bronx and has lived in East Harlem for the last decade. She worked as a salesperson for a couple years after graduating high school. But after becoming pregnant, she married and quit working.
“My husband and I have been back and forth,” she said. “After this war, who can sit there and clean up the mess?”
“I’m leaning more towards Barack,” she said. “He’s very calm under pressure, he does very well. He’s a young man, let’s give him a chance.”
Then she reconsidered. “But I really want a woman in there.” She stubbed out her cigarette and headed into the polling place. “Let’s see how my heart feels when I get there,” she said.
Fifteen minutes later she emerged smiling.
She voted for Clinton.
Kent Edwards, 26, a model and actor, made up his mind to vote for Obama only after speaking to his mother.
“We talked about the Clintons,”he said, “and how they kind of have been bought and sold. I do believe that Clinton has more experience but I like his vision better.”
“I was very torn,” he said today, speaking outside his polling place, a senior center on East 116th Street in Manhattan. “I guess I’m influenced, because I live in New York, about Hillary. I was a big Clinton supporter, Bill Clinton supporter. And I am a supporter of Hillary. But ever since the keynote address [by Obama at the 2004 Democratic Convention], Barack Obama sparked my interest. Then I read his book, ‘Dreams From My Father.’ There were a lot of parallels between his life and mine.”
Like Obama, Edwards has both a white and African-American parent, and was raised in a white household. He grew up in Virginia and moved to East Harlem two years ago, after voting for Al Gore and John Kerry in past elections.
He said he relates to what he called Obama’s “tenacious nature”– something Edwards himself has needed in pursuing his career goals. In addition to modeling and acting, he works as a photographer and personal trainer.
“He was an organizer in Chicago,” he said of Obama, “which takes a lot of determination. A lot of doors slammed in your face, a lot of rejection.
“But he still has the fortitude to push on.”
(Cristina Alesci, Fritzie Andrade, Stephen J. Bronner, Linnea Covington, Claudia Cruz, Allison V. Esposito, Maureen Ker, Francesca Levy, Kathryn Lurie, Barry Paddock and Henry Stewart contributed to this story.)