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Santa Rosa Voters Weigh In On Presidential Primary

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

The last round of voting in Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary is set for this Tuesday, Mar. 15.  Early Voting in the state ended over the weekend. But, before it wrapped up, WUWF News caught up with a sampling of voters in Santa Rosa County. 

“I voted for Donald Trump,” said Pea Ridge resident Daniel Womack, who voted early at the Santa Supervisor of Elections Office on Saturday. He says ‘beyond all the rhetoric and antics’ he thinks Trump’s message reflects what a lot of Americans are feeling.

“I think it’s important we get back to being a strong nation and we get back to being important world-wide. I don’t think we’re look at in the world as being respected anymore.”

Womack says he doesn’t agree with Trump on every point, but does believe that the billionaire businessman has some good ideas regarding trade and immigration.

Milton area residents Kathy and Larry Westendorf had similar thoughts, and also cast their votes for Trump.

“I think this country needs a change and he’s a man that can get in there and get some things taken care of for us,” said Kathy Westendorf. “I think we need to become united as a nation. I think that our military needs support and I think he’s gonna take care of that for us.”

Recent polls give Donald Trump a huge lead in Florida. A CBS News poll released over the weekend shows Trump with 44 percent of the vote, Cruz with 24 percent, and it drops Florida Senator Marco Rubio to third here in his home state, projecting 21% of the vote for him.

Rubio is struggling to stay in the race, and needs more people like Santa Rosa resident Gary White, in his corner.

“I voted for Marco Rubio,” said White. “I feel like he’s probably got the calmer head of all the three remaining candidates. Cruz is a little bit too hyped up and I’m not sure about Trump at all. The lesser of the evils I guess.”

White’s omission of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich reflects the fact that Kasich is getting little traction among Republicans in Florida, where all 99 delegates will go to the winner. 

On the Democratic side, Florida has 246 delegates that will be awarded on a proportional basis.

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
Milton resident Susie Crenshaw, voting early on Saturday, supports Hillary Clinton.

In the Sunshine State, Hillary Clinton is expected to win big. And, in Santa Rosa, she got the early votes of hair stylist Susie Crenshaw and construction worker Patrick Ellis.

“I like what she’s talking about,” Crenshaw said. “I love the fact that she’s a woman running for president and would be the first one. So, that would make history as well.”

According to Ellis, “she got secretary of state and got a lot of experience and I like that.” Ellis adds that he always supported the Clintons and likes that Mrs. Clinton backs President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Another Democrat casting an early vote in Santa Rosa was 70 year old Norma Sledge of Milton, who is a retired Department of Defense worker.  The Mississippi native declined to say who she voted for, adding that her vote as an African American Democrat should NOT be taken for granted.

“It seems like Sen. Clinton wants to take every Black vote for a given, a gift; I don’t like that,” said Sledge, referring to the fact that Clinton is speaking out on issues, such as racial injustice, that she did not talk about 20 years ago.

Sledge also expressed concern that the nation’s growing political discourse will create the kind of racially divisive atmosphere that existed in the 1960’s. And, she says some of what the Republicans are saying just doesn’t add up.

“I have a problem with Cruz. Cruz says he’s a Christian. Yet and still, he wants to kill every ISIS person; 

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
Milton resident Normal Sledge voted early in the Democratic Presidential Primary.

women, children, boy, girl dog and everything else. I have a problem with that.”

Rev. Jimmy Blank, a Republican who cast his vote last week at the Pace Community Center, has a different view.

“I voted for Sen. Ted Cruz,” said Blank, who is a non-denominational pastor of Family of Faith Fellowship Ministries international and a former postal worker.

“I found it important to cast my vote today for the candidate I think best represents my values as a follow of Jesus Christ and who also will help to maintain Godly accountability as a president and a leader.”

Blank is a native of Hackensack, New Jersey, and originally supported Chris Christy. He now thinks Christy would make a great vice president.

And, while Cruz got his primary vote, he like most others who spoke to WUWF, plans to support whoever wins his party’s nomination in the General Election in November.

“I do not want to see the Democratic candidates again in the White House. I think we’ve had enough now,” he said.

In the case of Navy Lt. Cmdr Daniel Marcus, who also voted at the Pace Community Center, he could not talk specifics. But, given his travels as an active duty serviceman, he highlighted the importance of just taking part in the election process.

“There’re countries that I’ve been deployed to and they don’t have that right, and they’re hungry for that right and fighting for it,” said Marcus, adding that just voicing your opinion in those countries could get a person killed or put their families in harm’s way. “Everybody needs to vote.”

If you haven’t yet voted, there’s one last chance. The polls will be open on this Election Day from 7am to 7pm. 

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.