In search of the perfect candidate

Sasha Parker

AMHERST, N.Y. – A mix of excitement and fog loomed over the Beachwood Continuing Care Center. Nestled within this senior care facility in Amherst, N.Y., is a polling location for four voting districts in Erie County. By 6 a.m., the first voters arrived to cast their ballots. By 7:25 a.m., 39 people had voted.

While more Democrats had arrived by that time to cast their ballots in this mostly Republican district, both parties agree this election could determine the fate of our nation.

“I believe this election is so important because of where America stands right now,” said Mike Szukala, Erie County deputy of comptroller. “The war in Iraq, the economy – those issues affect all Americans, and I believe the person we elect as our next president will have a big impact on those issues.”

To Szukala, as well as many of the 1,373 registered democrats in districts 41, 58, 71 and 95, the issues are all that matter.

“For me, the number one issue is the economy, especially housing,” Szukala said. “So many of my friends and colleagues have recently bought houses that they can’t afford … It’s a very difficult situation right now, and I’m looking to the government for an answer.”

Erie County’s economy was hit hard by factors affecting many industrial cities all over America. The declining manufacturing sector, suburban flight and the increasing movement of Americans to warmer climates in the South and Southwest have cut the county’s population in half.

The city of Buffalo, the county seat, is moving toward, like many other post-industrial Rust Belt metropolises, an economy more focused on health care, technology and services, according to the city of Buffalo’s Web site.

“Health care is so important,” said 33-year-old Vivian Jimenez, senior faculty advisor at the University of Buffalo.

“It was never this huge for me until I became pregnant,” Jimenez said. “Now, all these issues are coming up, and I worry about what’s going to be covered and what’s not going to be covered.”

She and her husband, Eric Comins, 40, are avid supporters of Barack Obama.

“He’s inspiring. I think the country needs a person that’s going to rile them up and get them excited about change,” Jimenez said.

While Democrats are taking the issues into heavy consideration, many Republican voters are looking for a candidate with the total package.

“I’m looking very carefully at the whole candidate and who I believe will fulfill what my convictions and my beliefs are,” said Republican Bryan Wheat. “The effect of our next president has a big effect on all of us. It’s important that we voice from our hearts what’s best for our country and ourselves.”

For Wheat, Mitt Romney fits the bill.

“I’ve done a lot of research and reading and praying. It’s not 100 percent, but he’s the closest I’ve been able to come at this point,” Wheat said.

Marjorie Schultz found another ideal choice.

“I’m a registered republican and I voted for McCain,” she said. “I was torn between McCain and Romney, but I do think the war is a very important issue and McCain is the candidate to settle it. That doesn’t mean that my vote won’t change.”

The fickle stances of Republican voters represent a fierce resistance from some Republicans to support McCain, according to media reports. But bit by bit, the GOP establishment – senators, governors, activists, rank-and-file Republican voters – is warming to the possibility of a McCain nomination, as one who has paid his dues and demonstrated an ability to connect with voters.

Regardless of the methods people are using to determine their vote, one thing is for certain – Super Tuesday in the state of New York is in full effect.

Contact public affairs reporter Sasha Parker at [email protected].