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Despite political interest, primary generates little local action

BARSTOW — Despite rising interest in the 2008 election, the presidential primaries haven’t generated much increase in organized political activity, local Republican and Democratic groups say.

Lawns across Barstow are devoid of political signs, few residents wear campaign buttons and fewer are canvassing neighborhoods in support of their favorite candidate. Some observers say that despite the lack of political action, residents are interested in the presidential race, especially because no candidate from either major party has a clear majority.

“I don’t think it's a lack of interest; I think it's a lack of decision,” said Bob Vassuer, president of the Barstow Area Republican Caucus. “This primary is very confusing for a lot of people.”

He said that in Barstow, like many places across the country, conservative voters are split in their support between Mitt Romney, John McCain and other candidates who have dropped out of the race. Vassuer fears that because many states have moved up their primaries, voters will become turned off by an excess of political advertisements and campaign activities.

“People are getting tired of political solicitations,” he said. “We’re trying to minimize it, but let’s face it, there will be a lot more before this is over in November.”

Like Vassuer, Larry Halstead, president of the Mojave Desert Democratic Club, said he’s heard more people talking about presidential politics, but so far it hasn’t translated into active campaigning.

“Right now, I’m not sure what action there is on the local level,” he said.

Halstead said that many parts of the country are seeing increased turnout among Democratic primary voters, something he said was due to an African-American and a woman candidate being seen as serious contenders for the first time. Despite that, he doesn’t expect to see a lot of campaigning locally until a candidate has a clear majority.

“Politics just goes by the wayside here in Barstow,” he said. “For some people its not necessarily that they’re apathetic, it’s when you’re working 12 hours a day, you just don’t have time for politics.”

According to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil, more residents are filling out applications to vote by mail, more people are registering to vote than ever before, and she expects a record number of voters at the polls on Tuesday.

“I’m hoping the turnout is high, that more people participate in the election process,” she said. “I’m hopeful that we see more than 50 percent turnout of registered voters.”

For many Barstow voters, national security and the economy may be the deciding factors in their choice on Tuesday.

Some Republicans say that they’re looking for a candidate who can lead the nation in times of war.

“I’m looking for someone with some stature, with some political and administrative experience, someone who’s known politically and has some political bearing,” said Larry Monroe, who said he’s been a conservative for more than 50 years. “We need to get a handle on this terrorist problem we’re having throughout the world.”

For Barstow area resident Mike Wheeler, who plans to vote for a Democrat in the primary, fears of a declining economy will dominate his primary decisions. He said that he’s worked in recent months to register locals to vote, but many residents haven’t been interested.

“There’s either a lack of information or people just don’t want bother,” he said. “They just complain, complain, and complain, but they don’t bother and vote.”

Contact the writer:

(760) 256-4126 or jason_smith@link.freedom.com


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