Voters weigh in at local polling places

Channon Hanna, 36, shows what policies brought her to the polls at Fire Station No. 10 in Arlington, Virginia.
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ARLINGTON, Va. — Beltway News reporters talked to voters at Fire Station No. 10 and Bennet Park Art Atrium off of Wilson Boulevard near the Rosslyn metro stop about their vote in this historic election.

Mark Epstein, 33, an attorney specializing in anti-trust regulation, voted for Donald Trump last Thursday. This morning, he was strolling past the polling station with Peggy, his 7-year-old mixed Beagle dog sporting a hat that matched his own — “Make America Grrreat Again.”

“This is the first election I’ve ever been really excited about,” Epstein, a lifelong Republican, said.

“The No. 1 reason I support Trump is the issue of immigration. There hasn’t been a single Republican candidate, this election or in the past, who has actually supported a policy that is in the interest of the American people,” he said. “They’ve been virtually beholden to business interest.”

It’s not just domestic issues that brought Epstein to the polls.

“I also strongly support Trump’s foreign policy. I think we need to be less involved in the Middle East, and I also think we shouldn’t have an antagonistic view of Russia,” he said.

Channon Hanna, 36, lobbyist, is standing in line to vote because it’s her civic duty, she said, and this year’s election has been a scary one.

“I’ve never identified myself as a feminist, but this election has pushed me into that category,” she said.

Channon Hanna, 36, shows what policies brought her to the polls at Fire Station No. 10 in Arlington.

“I will now be looking at those [women’s] issues and looking at candidates opinions on those issues like abortion and things like that much more stringently. Hearing some of the rhetoric coming from [Donald Trump’s] campaign has really scared me.”

In addition to women’s issues, she said is also concerned about the American economy.

“I do think that we’ve made some strides [economically], but I’d like to see us go further. I’d like to see us build on the policies we have right now,” said the native South Carolinian.

As for her post-voting plans, Hanna plans to bring the viewing party home.

“I’m actually having some folks over to watch,” she said. “I had a couple invites to some viewing parties, but I’m such a nerd that I don’t want to get distracted at the bar.”

Paul Fengler, 39, international developer, wraps his gloved fingers around a small white board, where he wrote a few issues of key importance to him: the environment and preventing climate change, national security, the economy, race relations, and equality.

Paul Fengler, 39, shows what policies brought him to the polls at Fire Station No. 10 in Arlington.

Fengler is as an international developer, working with ministries of health in Africa. For him, this election cycle has been about finding the candidate with the right temperament.

“I want someone who is stable to be president. That’s the main thing which is a concern for one of the potential candidates.” he said.

He said America is on the right track when it comes to climate change policy and its focus on race relations, but he is looking for the next president to keep up Obama’s legacy.

“There’s lots of things I’d like to see changes in. It’s a scary time because everyone’s so divided,” he said.

As someone working in international affairs, he is concerned about the country’s image.

“America needs to show we’re open to different ideas and races and religion. I think it would send the wrong message to elect someone who is divisive.”

Naomi Peña, a 70-year-old Chicago native, supported Bernie Sanders earlier this year.

“I’m not a big fan of Clinton, but she’s the lesser of two evils,” she said.

For the future, Peña says she hopes to see big corporations play less of a role in legislation, health care and environmental policy. As a former regional environmental planner, Peña is unsatisfied with the status quo.

“I believe the underlying problem is the corporate dominance of our political process and that includes not only the electoral process, but the writing of legislation and what legislation gets passed,” she said. “To me, the fundamental problem is that corporations are exercising way too much influence in our entire political system.”

Peña doesn’t consider herself anti-establishment, but she believes the lines of capitalism need to be redrawn.

“I think the idea of capitalism and free markets has gotten way out of control. It’s a good idea up to a point,” she said. “It has its place. But it has gone beyond the bounds and it needs to be constrained.”

She cites health care as an example. “In health care, the free market is not working. We think we want a free market but in health care, it has completely failed us. It is time to rethink where and how capitalism is useful and where it has become disruptive.”

Ed Beck, 72, waits to cast his vote outside Fire Station No. 10 in Arlington. (Photo by Laura Turner, BeltwayNews)

Ed Beck, a 72-year-old lawyer, leans heavily on his cane as he reads over the fliers volunteers pass to him. Beck says he is a veteran participant in local and national elections.

“It’s not as historic as the Obama election,” he recalled, “and the lines aren’t as long at this polling station.” He said he remembered long lines in colder weather in 2008 and 2012.

As a  lawyer, Beck is also interested in the vacant Supreme Court seat. He supports Obama’s nomination.

“The character of the two candidates is the main issue, and their ability to govern. They need a good temperament to see both sides of the issue,” Beck said.

Lorna Richards, 49, a research coordinator for the Emergency Department at George Washington University Hospital, has been a part of the political system. In 2004, she ran on the Democratic ticket hoping to become a U.S. senator representing Iowa, her home state. Her platform focused on education and health care, she said.

“Social issues are big for me.” she said. “I’m concerned about the level of hate, racism, anti-semitism and anti-LGBT rhetoric that has surfaced.”

Richards said she understands the success of Donald Trump’s platform, even if she doesn’t agree with it.

“Some of these concerns have been latent. As our playing field has been leveled and there are more rights, some people feel threatened by that and are concerned,” she said. “I think that’s what brings the issues to light and the current Republican nominee has given a voice to some of those concerns.”

Unlike previous elections, Richards said she hopes to be “home and sedated” tonight as the results come out.

Tristan Ahmadi, 35, a software company employee, is a lifelong northern Virginia resident who has the advantage of both living and working near his polling place, the Bennet Park Art Atrium off Wilson Boulevard in Arlington.

“From a social perspective, I think we need a leader who can think in terms of where we are today and how the country has changed over time,” he said.

“We’re going through a transition in terms of what’s important here in America when it comes to social issues. I’m here to vote because I want to represent somebody who cares about some of those interests and things that matter to a lot of people,” he added.

“In terms of equality, I think that’s something that was overlooked by some leaders in the past,” he said. “For example, Hillary puts that as a forefront in part of her platform. Representing people who haven’t been represented in the past.”

As for post-election plans, he says he wants to keep things low key.  “I’m just going to watch it with some friends at my place tonight,” he said.

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