Welcome to Trump country

Published 2:31 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff writer

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each won their respective primaries in Virginia last week. They both came out on top in Isle of Wight and Surry counties too.

Trump pulled in more than 40 percent of the vote in both counties and won all but two precincts. Florida Senator Marco Rubio edged out Trump in the Smithfield district by less than 1 percent. Texas Senator Ted Cruz tied with Trump in Surry’s Spring Grove District — they each received six votes.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was unable to be very competitive in either county. Clinton, the former secretary of state, did not receive less than 60 percent of the vote in any of the county districts. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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Bill Coburn, the president of the Isle of Wight Republican Committee, said the enthusiasm gaining behind Trump might be across the aisle, but is similar to what got people excited about Barack Obama in 2008: voters looking for something different.

“We’ve got a lot of enthusiastic people who are looking for a change,” Coburn said.

But that desire for change is about as far as the similarities go. Coburn said many voters in the Republican bloc are fed up with just about everything that’s happened under the Obama administration.

He said while the Republican committee doesn’t have a stance on the candidates, and while he personally supported Rubio, there were members of the committee who liked what they were hearing from Trump and were planning on voting for him.

“The people I’ve spoken to who are for Donald Trump are for him because he’s outspoken, for economic reasons and because of his strong business background,” he said.

That thought was echoed by county resident Charlie Daniels after he left the polls on Tuesday.

Daniels said he voted for Trump because the country needs a candidate that believes in a capitalist economic system and said “other countries are going to overtake us shortly if we don’t return to what made us great.”

Daniels admits his vote won’t be the most popular decision with his Republican friends and said that while he supports Trump he considers any of the GOP candidates a better option than the candidates on the Democratic side.

“Our country has been on a seven-year slide,” he said of Obama’s time in the Oval Office. “Our current administration was going to restore our respect with the world and it has not worked — it has gotten worse.”

Other voters voiced their frustration with the rhetoric being used by conservative candidates in this election — some said it caused them to vote for the Democratic Party for the first time last Tuesday.

Day Prevatte voted for Clinton, but said she is a registered Republican who is fed up with the field the GOP offered up this year.

“The Republican party this time around is just a zoo,” Prevatte said.

Social Security and Medicare were the issues she was focused on in her decision to vote for Clinton, she said, adding that other candidates’ lack of experience or inability to give detailed platforms turned her off.

To win the Republican nomination for president a candidate has to receive 1,237 delegates. So far, Trump has received the most on the Republican side with 384. Cruz follows him with 300 and Rubio has 151.

On the Democratic side, a candidate has to receive a majority; Hillary has 658 pledged delegates, Sanders has 471.

Paul Bonney, the assistant chief at the Smithfield district polling location, said the day of voting went smoothly.

Bonney said the volunteers got to the location at 5 a.m. to set up the voting tables, count ballots and prepare for the day.

“At six o’clock you announce ‘the polls are open’ and there are people standing outside who are getting ready to go to work,” he said.

The majority of the people coming through were of the older demographic, but the occasional young voter would make their way through, he said.

When voters got to the polls they stated which party’s primary they wanted to vote in, received a card for their ballot and then voted on either a paper or electronic ballot.

A few voters voiced concern with having to tell poll workers which party’s primary they wanted to vote in. But overall, Bonney said the process went by without much of a fuss.

“Sometimes the biggest crisis is people standing around talking to their friends,” he said.

About half-way through the day there had been one voter who forgot her photo identification. Bonney said she was able to fill out a provisional ballot — a normal ballot sealed in a bright green envelope. Provisional voters were instructed to take their identification to the registrar’s office the next day for the ballot to be counted.

The turnout for the election greatly favored the Republicans both state-wide and locally. Across Virginia more than 1.02 million people voted on a GOP ballot, while just over 780,000 used a Democratic ballot.

Even the usually-Democratic-leaning Surry County had more Republican voters in this primary with 1,045 people voting for Republicans and 993 casting votes for Democrats.

In the state’s last dual primary in 2008, only 414 voters in Surry went with a Republican — 1,474 voted for Democrats.

Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, said this rise in turnout could be a good sign for the Republican Party heading into the general election.

“I guess the point I’m trying to make is that turn out levels have some correlation to excitement and energy,” Kidd said.

The candidate driving a lot of that energy is Trump, he said.  {/mprestriction}