Despite the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, Westport voters will go to the polls as scheduled today (Tuesday, Nov. 6). Once there, they will likely focus heavily on the headline contest between President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Also on the ballot, however, are contenders for congressional and legislative seats.
But as local voters weigh the two presidential standard-bearers' platforms, they told the Westport News last week the country's economic and financial health will figure as one of their most important concerns.
"Resolving the fiscal issues, I think that would be probably the No. 1 thing that most Americans would want at this point," said Sheryl Sherman, 71.
Herb Podel, 87, cited the potentially massive economic impact of the "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January.
"The economy is concerned about it, the market is concerned about it and our debt ratio could fall a few notches lower if we don't do something about it," he said. "That's the major issue for the moment. If that were resolved, it would probably pick up the economy."
Jim Deangelis, 52, a chief fiscal officer, said he would vote for candidates with a pro-business platform.
"I'd like to see the lowering of corporate tax rates, so businesses can hire and put more people on the payrolls and feel more confident about expanding," he said.
Health care also stands as another top issue for Westport voters.
"My patients are in their 90s -- they're living longer -- but they need more care," said Marie Latella, 50, a registered nurse. "We cannot abandon our seniors. Plus we need security for us when we get old. I think there's a lot of waste in the health-care system and I think the government really needs to clamp down in getting rid of the waste and mandate more regulations as far as waste goes."
Assessing the presidential candidates
Correlating with strong support Democratic presidential candidates have enjoyed in Westport in recent elections, Obama appears to remain popular with many town voters. In the 2008 election, he carried Westport with 65 percent of the town's vote.
"I just think that his economic policies from the past, and what he plans for the future are what's best for the country, instead of the Republican tact of cutting programs," said Mark Hunter, 54, who is unemployed.
Betty Kogen, 81, is also an Obama supporter, citing her approval of his foreign policy.
"Obama wants us to sit down and get us together," she said. "But Romney, the way he's been acting lately, he would have an atomic bomb go off without really trying to get people to work together."
Others express disappointment, however, with Obama's performance, arguing that Romney would be a better steward of economic recovery.
"I think the country is heading down the wrong path and I think that he's a successful businessman and that's what we need right now," said Diane Curtis, 54, a homemaker. "We need a strong economic policymaker."
Lily Kostin, 70, an accountant, voted for Obama in 2008. Four years later, she is undecided about her choice in the presidential contest. She is unhappy about the growth of the national debt during Obama's tenure and opposed the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.
"His health-care plan -- I don't like it," she said. "In the future, I think it will be bad for senior people."
Lynn Bishop, 37, a pre-school teacher, is also undecided. She said she shares positions with presidential candidates.
"I want Romney's fiscal plans with Obama's social policies," she said.
Westport's two party heads, unsurprisingly, also offer differing assessments of Obama's record.
"I think people realize that we need to elect people who will be responsible with our tax dollars," said Republican Town Committee Chairwoman Desiree Soli. "It's quite clear that the Democrats have not been over the last four years. It's time for a change and to get people in there who know what it takes for businesses to succeed."
"Unemployment is going down, consumer confidence is going up," he said. "What the current administration walked into -- to say it was in free fall would be an understatement. The economy seems to be getting back on track, albeit slower than we would like, but it is improving."
Getting out the vote
Almost every town resident interviewed last week by the Westport News indicated his or her intention to vote Nov. 6. That enthusiasm reflects the consistently high participation rate by town voters in presidential elections. In 2008, 86 percent of the town's registered voters cast a ballot. In comparison, the turnout rate plummeted to 37 percent in the 2011 town election.
Both Soli and Ezzes say strong voter turnout will be critical to ensuring their party's candidates prevail.
Those contenders will likely hope to garner the support of young voters like Matt Krubski, a 23-year-old who works in the media industry.
"The main reason I haven't been watching or paying attention is because I've been working so much," he said. "When I was in college, I was really trying to give it an effort, but now I get home at 9 p.m. and I don't really have a chance to watch the debates. I need to learn more, but I definitely plan on voting."
Correspondent Jarret Liotta contributed to this report.
WESTPORT HEADS TO THE POLLS
Election Day polls will be open today (Tuesday, Nov. 6) from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters should bring an ID to the polls that shows their names, according to town election officials.
Residents with questions about Election Day can contact the Registrars' Office at 203-341-1115 or visit the Registrars' page online at http://westportct.gov/index.aspx?page=204.
There are 6,389 registered Democrats, 4,951 registered Republicans and 6,583 voters who are registered as unaffiliated, according to the most recent statistics available from the town's registrars.
Voters can look up their polling place by visiting http://westportct.gov/index.aspx?page=670.
Westport residents will vote at the following locations:
ASSEMBLY DIST. LOCATION ADDRESS
136-1 Saugatuck Elementary School gym 170 Riverside Ave.
136-2 Coleytown Middle School gym 255 North Ave.
136-3 Long Lots Elementary School gym 13 Hyde Lane
136-4 Green's Farms Elementary School gym 17 Morningside Drive South
136-5 Green's Farms Elementary School gym 17 Morningside Drive South
143 Saugatuck Elementary School gym 170 Riverside Ave.