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Voices From Around Berkshire County On Super Tuesday

People sit at desks, stand in booths, and wait in line in a fire station with fire engines and red carpets over the concrete floor
Josh Landes
Voters hit the polls on March 3rd, 2020 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Thousands went to the polls in the Berkshires on Super Tuesday as former Vice President Joe Biden unexpectedly won Massachusetts. WAMC spent the day speaking to voters across the county, starting in its largest community – Pittsfield.

After a long, contentious Democratic presidential primary, Pittsfield voters who didn’t early vote cast their ballots Tuesday.

Mary Stucklen was outside of her poll location at Williams Elementary School in Pittsfield’s Ward 4B with a “Bernie” sign bright and early. She said the Vermont Senator represented the answer to her biggest issue:

“Sustainability," said Stucklen. "The climate crisis is real, we need to do something about it, and I think that Bernie is our best chance.”

She said the issue had motivated her like no other.

“The past four years, I kind of feel like it’s kind of been an undoing of all of the hard work that we’ve done so far protecting public land, preventing new drilling and oil and all that stuff," said Stucklen. "So today, when people go to vote, I hope that they keep the earth at the center of their minds and the center of their hearts and that they vote for somebody who can really fight for the earth and our planet and make sure that we have a livable future.”

Another Sanders voter, Deanna Nesti, said his stance on forgiving student loan debt had secured her vote.

“I just recently got out of college so that’s a big thing for me, and on top of that, health care and all of that is extremely important – so I think those are kind of the two main things that I’m looking at,” said Nesti.

It wasn’t as easy for fellow Democrat Leslie Wessler to make a decision – but she said walking into the polls Tuesday that she’d made up her mind.

“It feels very good, I’m really thrilled about it, and up until 24 hours ago I truly wasn’t sure who I was voting for," said Wessler. "But now, after Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar went and endorsed Biden, I’m all in.”

Her vote came down to a single issue.

“We need someone that’s electable that will absolutely beat Trump and this sounds like a broken record, but that’s exactly what we need – Trump needs to get out," said Wessler. "Period.”

Jeffrey Gordon was torn between Sanders and Biden before going into the polls:

“I guess what I want ideally in a candidate and what I think will actually happen,” he told WAMC.

On his way out of the polls, Gordon revealed who ultimately won his vote: “Sanders.”

“So why Sanders?” asked WAMC.

“Because all along I thought I liked him more and his ideals more so – [I] stuck with it,” said Gordon.

He cited universal health care, gun control, and taking on the fossil fuel industry in the name of climate change.

“Not sure he could get it all done or if he could get elected, but I figured just go with what feels right and if Biden ended up getting the nomination then I’d of course vote for him in the general election, but for right now, Sanders is the guy I prefer,” said Gordon.

Mirroring the statewide result, Biden ultimately won Pittsfield’s Ward 4B with 415 votes to Sanders’ 180. Bay State Senator Elizabeth Warren placed third with 128. Citywide, Biden secured 3,483 votes; Sanders, 2, 428, and Warren, 1,393.

Meanwhile, in the Republican primary, Pittsfielder Dave Bubriski was among the 92 voters in ward 4B to stick with President Trump over former Massachusetts Governor William Weld – who only received 111 votes citywide to Trump’s 652.

“I’m a Republican and I think he’s been doing a good job," said Bubriski. "He can be a little rough around the edges, but I think we have to continue on the course we’re on.”

Bubriski dismissed Weld as an option.

“I think his VP choice would probably be Johnny Walker,” he told WAMC.

He said Trump has delivered on the issues most important to him: “Low taxes, more personal freedom, Second Amendment, illegal immigration, and the economy’s roaring!”

Bubriski says it’s not easy being one of the rare Republicans in Berkshire County.

“You fear wearing any Trump regalia," he told WAMC. "You don’t want to get your car keyed or have people shout at you. But it’s – yeah, you definitely feel it.”

Trump dominated the Massachusetts primary, winning almost 90% of the vote over Weld.

The story continues in South County.

In Housatonic – a village in Great Barrington set along its namesake river – voters walked, drove, and biked to the community center on Main Street to cast their votes.

Ethel Kramer’s first choice was no longer an option.

“I was thinking of boot – Buttigieg? I can't say his name!” she laughed.

Kramer decided to pivot to Bernie Sanders.

“I’m not convinced that Biden is able to do the job at this point in time," she told WAMC. "I think he has some medical issues that will prevent him from being a good president – memory issues. And I think – I’ve always liked Bernie Sanders and I believe in some of the things he says he wants to do.”

Just down the river, Sanders supporters waved signs at passing cars on Route 7 outside of Great Barrington’s main polling center, the fire station.

Asma Abbas of Richmond teaches politics and philosophy at Simon’s Rock. A Democratic Socialists of America member, she said for her and some of her fellow educators, the Sanders campaign represents more than just the Vermont politician’s candidacy.

“The truth is for some of us, this is the only time we have had a chance to think of a future," said Abbas. "For years, we’ve been teaching with this kind of complete sense of an absence of futurity to American politics and this is really the one moment that it feels like we can even look ahead 10 months and say ‘how will we shape what Bernie is doing’ because this cannot just be putting him in the White House. This is about claiming a stake in the campaign for now and for years to come, and that’s why building institutions besides the campaign is so crucial.”

Sanders took Great Barrington with 691 votes, over Biden’s 606 and Warren’s 515.

40 miles north, Williams College student Onyeka Obi went to the Williamstown Elementary School gym to vote for Sanders as well.

“It feels so exciting to finally be able to vote, because I’ve wanted to vote my entire life," Obi told WAMC. "2016, I was constantly arguing with my mom about Bernie over Hillary, and she ended up voting for Hillary, and I couldn’t vote. And now I can finally vote for Bernie like I’ve always wanted to, and I’m really excited to do it,” she laughed.

The Vermont senator’s health care and student loan debt positions drove her decision.

“I just believe his policy, his vision, everything is so needed in this country," said Obi. "There’s just a lot of heartbreak and a lot of suffering going on and I feel like Medicare For All, solving school debt – a lot of things would just be really solved, and I think it’s just like what we need as a country and as a society to move forward.”

Meredith Hoppin was excited to cast her vote for Elizabeth Warren.

“Because I think she’d make a fantastic president," she said. "I like Bernie too, but I’d prefer her. And also I figure I want to show my support as a citizen of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. I’m voting for my senator.”

Williamstown went to Biden, with the former vice president garnering 738 votes. Warren came in second with 718, and Sanders ended up in third with 496 votes.

A few miles east down Route 2 in North Adams, voters streamed into St. Elizabeth's Parish Center on Marshall Street through the light evening rain. One of them was Ellen Bucky.

“It was interesting because I didn’t decide until yesterday, and I voted for Biden because I think he’s the best candidate to return us to responsible government,” she told WAMC.

Bucky praised the Democratic field’s strength, but said Biden ultimately represents the leadership the country needs in 2020.

“We need someone who has the momentum and the ability to appoint a really good cabinet and get our federal bureaucracy back up and running and taking care of us – water, pollution, everything," she said. "I think we need solid experience.”

Josmar Vega came to mainland America from Puerto Rico three years ago. In his first time voting, he chose Sanders.

“From when I first since I got to this country, he talks about all this good stuff about education and all these good things," said Vega. "And that’s why I came here: to have a better education, a better future. And that’s something that intrigues me.”

Sanders carried North Adams with 822 votes, beating Biden’s 796 and Warren’s 390.

Biden won all but seven of the county’s 32 municipalities, and took the state with almost 34% of the vote. Sanders came in second with over 26%, and Bay State Senator Warren was third with just over 21%.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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