Peninsula's political flavor

Many issue on local voters' minds during presidential vote

Civic duty, wet boots and snow met hot coffee, pumpkin bread and ballots at Nikiski Fire Hall No. 1 in Salamatof on Tuesday.


For more than a decade, election workers have been baking cookies, muffins, pumpkin bread and other goodies for voters in the area.

“They’re the hit of voting,” said Patsy Clifford, co-chair of the precinct. “Everyone comes in to have a pumpkin roll and if they don’t see it on the counter they’ll ask for it.”

Precinct chairman Jodie Titus sliced thick, gooey rolls of the pumpkin bread as voters crammed into the small room Tuesday afternoon to elect state and national lawmakers into office.

“We enjoy doing it. We enjoy seeing the people come back and stick around for a few more minutes and talk with us a little bit,” Titus said. “We love our voters, we love it when they come out and if this is a way to entice them, hey, whatever works.”

Voters across the Kenai Peninsula weighed in Tuesday on whether or not the nation should re-hire President Barack Obama to lead the nation for four more years, or replace him with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

While Obama clinched the national vote late Tuesday night earning another term, Romney held a lead in Alaska late into the night as results were tallied. Local presidential voting results were not available as of press time.

On the central Peninsula, voters said they were concerned about the direction of the nation and a number of issues, chief among them the economy, energy, civil rights and federal entitlement programs.

Chisik Island resident Machelle Haynes said she’d like to see the world change for the better, so she voted for Obama’s re-election bid. Romney would not provide positive change, she said adding that she agrees with most of Obama’s policies, such as his economic measures and health care reform.

“Sure, (Obama) has stagnated, but I’d like to give him another chance and see if he can do a good job,” Haynes said.

Kalifornsky Beach voter Chelsea Martin, 23, said she voted for Romney because she isn’t a “big fan” of Obama and his policies.

“One of my biggest problems is with the deficit and it’s pretty basic — I haven’t seen a change other than for the worse in the last four years,” she said. “So, why not give someone else a chance?”

Martin said Romney would be more apt to return the country to economic prosperity.

“If you look at his background of what he does for a profession — taking businesses and turning them around and that is what this country needs,” she said.

Janell Grenier, of Nikiski, said she loved to vote, even though she was sometimes at odds with her community.

“It’s a little bit of a religious experience for me,” she said. “This is the one place where I feel like I can voice my opinion and I feel I live in a community that — I love dearly — but I don’t always jive with politically.”

Grenier voted for Obama because she liked his foreign policy choices among other things.

“I think he’s realistic and honest and I just like that he’s a self-made person,” she said. “… America is made of people like that — obviously people like Mitt Romney too because we have plenty of those too — but I like Barack Obama because he’s an up-from-his-bootstraps kind of guy.”

Kenai resident Lori Williams is a “diehard” Republican, and her family owns a local, small business, Industrial Instrument Service Company. She said she does not trust Obama and said Romney is a good businessman.

“For a small business owner,” the 34-year-old Kenai resident said, “I’m definitely for Romney.”

Allen Dorman, who voted at Soldotna City Hall, said he believes the current president is leading the country toward socialism. He feels burdened and disenfranchised due to the saturation of entitlement programs, he said.

Romney’s business experience, Dorman said, will create jobs and the country needs rich people in general, he added.

“That’s what a democracy is all about: people capitalizing on what they do, on their hard work,” he said. “I wish I could make as much money as them, but I don’t. So, should a person like me be taxed more because someone on welfare or an illegal alien needs support? I don’t think so.”

The independent-registered voter said he thinks the Peninsula is somewhat isolated from the country’s larger problems. The area has some faults, but it also holds economic potential, and, in the long-term the country would be better off with Romney, he said.

“(Romney) understands that private enterprise is how the country was founded and where the country should go,” Dorman said.

Soldotna resident Larry Davis shared those views. The future of the world is at stake during this election, Davis said. He likes that Romney is a businessman and said the country needs a sound business plan rather than political experiments.

“The economy is the number one priority,” he said. “Everything else falls to the wayside. We’re in debt so badly that it’s unreal, so it’s very important that we get the economy on track. We need to work our way back from the edge of a cliff.”

Davis estimated that energy is the Peninsula’s most important issue.

“Oil needs are important, because that affects us here,” Davis said. “It provides jobs.”

Kalifornsky Beach voter CR Gomes shared a similar sentiment — he voted where his job is: the oil field.

“Romney I think will protect more jobs, especially in the oil field, which is where I work,” said the 38-year-old voter. “I think he is more capitalist — protect our jobs and give us more of a future.”

Joe Ray Skrha voted for Obama because he supports alternative energy, an industry suited for Alaska, he said. Romney would kill alternative energy programs, the 57-year-old Kenai voter said.

“If Obama can get elected this time, I suspect that within four years you’ll see a quadrupling of (alternative energy sources that) we have now,” he said.

He also said healthcare costs would rise and tax strategies would favor the wealthy if Romney were elected president.

“We’re on the right line right now,” Skrha said, “and I hope and pray he gets elected this winter.”

Skrha said he does not trust Romney, further alleging he lied to voters.

Kenai’s Sue Hoisington echoed a similar sentiment — said she voted for Obama because she does not trust the Republican media or party.

“I am upset with all the misinformation from the Republican-slanted media — Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, a lot of people on the radio,” the 49-year-old Kenai resident said. “If they would be more truthful, I might consider voting Republican.”

Hoisington said she was also drawn to the civil liberties Obama represents, namely his approval of same-sex marriages and women’s reproductive rights. She said his auto industry and bank bailouts were necessary, too.

K-Beach voter Danny Parazoo said he was a “roots guy” and wanted to see the nation returned to the “principles on which it was founded.”

“And I’m not for huge government and bailing out everybody — I don’t think that is the answer our country needs,” he said. “Sometimes things just need to go through their steps.”

Although Alaska has traditionally voted Republican, many of Samantha Huf’s friends are “surprisingly” voting for Obama, she said.

“Mostly for issues like abortion and more extreme issues,” the 24-year-old Kenai resident said.

But Huf did not vote for Obama, or Romney — she voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, and she said it was a hard decision.

“I had a discussion with somebody last night about if they get five percent of the vote, then they actually get funding, instead of just Republican-Democrat,” she said. “It would be nice to see that change, because most people don’t even talk about the other candidates, and that kind of sucks.”

The dichotomy does not leave any “happy mediums,” she said.

Traci Knutson, a Funny River voter, said she was a Ron Paul supporter and was disappointed her candidate didn’t make the ballot. Although Knutson said she identified with Libertarian principles, she voted for Romney, adding she would have voted for “anyone but him,” referring to Obama.

“I think he would have done a good job,” she said of Paul, a Texas Congressman. “I think he would have attempted to get the debt under control and I think he would have tried to put some of the issues into the states’ hands and not the federal government’s hands where it doesn’t belong.”

Peninsula Clarion reporters Jerzy Shedlock, Dan Schwartz, Rashah McChesney and Brian Smith contributed to this report. They can be reached at