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California voter concerns: homelessness, prices _ and Trump

November 6, 2018

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2018, file photo, voters fill out their ballots at the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office in Norwalk, Calif. The general election takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 6. From homelessness to the price of gas, Californians are weighing in on a raft of concerns in a state that's struggling with high housing prices, water issues and decaying infrastructure. With an overwhelmingly Democratic leadership, Republicans are underdogs for the governorship and there isn't even a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate on the ballot. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — From homelessness to the price of gas, Californians are weighing in on a raft of concerns in a state that’s struggling with high housing prices, water issues and decaying infrastructure. But one issue looms large in the voting: President Donald Trump. Many voters say the policies and behavior of the president pushed them to the polls. Here’s what some who took advantage of early voting had to say:

STATE OF THE NATION

Lawrence Reh’s voice quivered and he wiped back tears as he spoke of the importance of the midterm elections.

“I’m far more depressed and pessimistic about the state of the country then I’ve ever been,” the 76-year-old retired writer from Alameda in the San Francisco Bay Area said softly, calling it “an accumulation of tragedy.”

“I think the man is mentally ill,” Reh said of Trump. “I never used to watch morning news on television, and now I think I’ve got to get the morning headlines just to see what kind of damage he’s done overnight.”

“I feel like we’ve got a banana republic dictator in this White House,” he said.

“Nobody who supported Trump got my vote,” said Sharon Navarro, 69, in San Diego. Human rights issues and whittling down corporate influence were major concerns for the retired office worker.

“We are living in the foothills of the preposterous,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m fighting for these things 30 years later.”

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IMMIGRATION

“Dark times,” exclaimed Caitlin Craven, a 36-year-old writer from San Francisco. The registered Democrat said she was so horrified by the Trump administration policies that she has started volunteering with immigrant rights groups.

“It goes against everything that this country is supposed to be. We’re supposed to be a refuge for people who want a better life, and to welcome them. We’re all immigrants. And it goes against all of that,” she said.

Greg Vargas, 39, a real estate agent from Costa Mesa, dislikes Trump’s rhetoric about Latino immigrants. Originally from Colombia, Vargas became a U.S. citizen in 2013.

“Definitely Trump motivated me to vote,” he said. “He’s always using us as a scapegoat.”

Vargas, a Democrat, also feels strongly as a black Latino.

“He’s always throwing hints to the white supremacists that he’s supporting them and he’s backing them,” Vargas said. “It’s really obvious for them that Donald Trump is their guy.”

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THE ECONOMY

Richard and Aleshia Murphy took their 7-month-old daughter to the poll. Both Trump supporters, they moved from Reno, Nevada, to Lakewood just south of Los Angeles seven months ago.

Murphy, a train operations manager, said the economy motivated the couple to vote.

“I want to keep things going,” he said. “My work feels the booming economy. We’re hiring more people, all positions, from the bottom to the top.”

The Murphys voted yes on Proposition 6 to repeal a 12-cent gas tax hike approved by lawmakers last year. The money was intended for road works and transit programs. But the Murphys already are coping with California’s higher fuel costs, sky-high home prices and general cost of living.

“Everything’s been a sticker shock,” Richard Murphy said. “Everything.”

Enrique Alonzo, a 46-year-old civil engineer and “hard-core conservative” from Anaheim Hills, also cited the economy as he voted for Republican John Cox for governor.

“Anything that affects my pocketbook I vote against, and normally that is a Democrat,” he said.

Alonzo opposes any efforts to increase taxes.

“There’s just so much mismanagement” in government, he said.

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ONE-PARTY STATE?

Richard Sindt said he voted only for Democrats, feeling he couldn’t trust Republicans.

“They have a grip on the businesses and the financial industry and the economic situation has been taking us into the ground,” said Sindt, a 71-year-old retired mapmaker from Garden Grove.

But Steve Bridge, a 68-year-old store manager from nearby Orange, thinks Democrats are the danger. That’s why he voted for Mimi Walters, the GOP U.S. House incumbent for the 45th District.

“I do not want a Democratic takeover of the Congress,” he said. “Our country is doing good now.”

“Look at California — it’s almost a one-party state,” he said. “There’s no tax that Democrats don’t like. They just tax you to death.”

Republican Monte Neal’s dissatisfaction with Democrats running California also drove him to the ballot box.

“I haven’t voted in years, so I figure if I want my voice heard I should come out and vote,” he said.

He chose John Cox for governor over Democrat Gavin Newsom.

“Newsom is going to walk right into (former Gov. Jerry) Brown’s shoes and keep doing what Brown’s doing right now and that’s running California into the ground,” he said. “I want a change here in California.”

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HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

At the same time, Neal voted in favor of two bond measures that would provide a combined $6 billion for housing. The 53-year-old construction worker spent three years living on the streets before a Sacramento housing program gave him a place to live. He now runs a house in Sacramento that provides housing for other formerly homeless people and says he sees firsthand how critical funding is to help homeless people, particularly ones with mental illness.

Homelessness also was a key issue for Carol Hawkins, 67, a retired nurse from Alameda.

“That’s a big thing for our state. It’s sad,” said Hawkins, a Democrat. “There are women who get up and get dressed to go to work in the morning and they’re homeless because they can’t afford rent.”

Scott Soykin, an independent from Sacramento, works for the state maintaining voter rolls. He is a renter and favored Proposition 10, which would let cities and counties regulate rental fees in buildings that state law currently shields from such control.

“If that passes, it would then allow local cities to be able to have that ability to enact rent controls, which I think are sorely needed, especially in our state,” said Soykin, 34. “The housing crisis is insane. My wife and I make $110,000 a year and can’t afford a house. It’s out of control.”

Beth Henderson of Roseville, a conservative Republican, also supports the measure. The 43-year-old lives with her parents because she does not make enough money through disability payments to afford her own apartment. She faults “greedy companies.”

“People are homeless because the rent is out of control,” she said.

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GAS TAX

California’s Democrat-controlled Legislature passed the gas tax that Proposition 6 would repeal but that doesn’t mean rank-and-file Democrats are necessarily in favor of it.

Lesette Pate, a 52-year-old Inglewood resident, certainly wasn’t.

“They’re taking from certain things to fund other things,” said Pate, a medical biller and coder. “I feel they could come up with a better solution around the board. I mean, you go to work and if gas is already $3.87 a lot of places, it’s very, very expensive and if you’re not making a lot, it’s a lot.”

“I know the roads need repairing and all of that but you need to find money for that someplace else,” Janice Nears, a 63-year-old retired U.S. postal worker living in Los Angeles who voted Democratic. “Gas is too expensive. It was already expensive in this state. It’s ridiculous. We just have to find that money someplace else.”

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THE TONE OF THE TIMES

Trump’s policies translated into poll decisions for some. But his rhetoric got mixed reviews.

“You’re the president of the United States of America, and ‘united’ doesn’t seem to be part of his vocabulary,” said Bill Lewis, a 61-year-old solar energy marketer from Costa Mesa, who voted Democratic.

Erin Murray, a 44-year-old homemaker and Republican voter from North Tustin, said she doesn’t always agree with everything the president says.

“I think sometimes he has a loose tongue, but I think in general he’s benefiting this country,” she said. “I think he listens to us ... he listens to Americans.”

Murray said overall, she likes the direction in which he’s taking the country. That’s why she decided to keep Walters, the GOP incumbent for her Orange County area.

Things were exactly the opposite for Harriet Leavitt, a 76-year-old Democratic retiree from neighboring Tustin.

“I very, very, very, very much dislike Trump and all his policies. I think the Republicans don’t have a backbone and do whatever he says,” she said. “Anybody who is related to Republicans and Trump, I don’t want them in.”

Aleshia Murphy, the stay-at-home mom from Lakewood, said she’d like to see more civility in Washington and among regular Americans.

“They’re all acting like a bunch of children,” she said. “It literally reminds me of my 3-year-old throwing a fit.”

Murphy wasn’t bothered by the president’s remarks about women.

“I’d rather have somebody who’s going to come off as a complete jerk but you know exactly what they’re thinking because they have no filter, than a slick-haired politician that literally tells you anything you want to hear just so that you support them,” she said.

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Contributing to this story were AP journalists Sophia Bollag, Jocelyn Gecker, Janie Har, Amanda Lee Myers, Kathleen Ronayne, Amy Taxin, and Julie Watson.

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