Ask random people in Glen Cove about the upcoming presidential election and expect an expression that seems to say “Oh boy, man oh man . . . can you believe this?”
As an email-hobbled Hillary Clinton and an incendiary Donald Trump pivot and tumble toward the Nov. 8 finish line, the political season has people dismayed and seething. Long gone is the imagery of “happy days are here again”-style campaigns. Instead: angry cries of “lock her up” and “racist fascist,” and indignation over the spectacle.
“It seems to get worse every day; if it’s not one it’s the other,” sighed Lisa Arthur, 56, one of the still relatively high number of undecided voters found in polls this cycle. “It’s so sad the choices that we have . . . I don’t know what’s going to decide me.”
With historically high unpopularity ratings, both candidates will depend for a win not only on their genuine supporters, but on the even greater number of voters who simply dislike — passionately — the other candidate more.
A recent Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll found that Trump was viewed unfavorably by 55 percent of Long Island voters, and Clinton was viewed unfavorably by 57 percent.
“You have a knife in one hand and a gun in the other and you decide which way to commit suicide,” said Tim McGrady, 58, a managerial accountant, lifelong Glen Cove resident and until very recently a Republican, raising each hand in illustration. “The gun is Hillary and the knife is Trump. I’d rather die by the gun because the knife would hurt more.”
Glen Cove, on the North Shore of Nassau County, has a walkable downtown, a waterfront with yacht clubs and a big development planned for a former Superfund site. Leafy streets lead to repurposed Gold Coast mansions from the Gilded Age and pleasant neighborhoods of single-family homes, condos and rental apartments.
Reginald Spinello, the mayor of this longtime Democratic stronghold (and home base for former county executive and current congressional candidate Thomas Suozzi), won re-election last fall as an Independence Party member with the endorsement of the Republican, Democratic and Conservative parties.
The city is 60 percent non-Hispanic white, with a growing Hispanic population now about 28 percent of the total, up from 20 percent in the 2000 census.
Almendra Tinoco, 31, is a medical assistant whose parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She and her husband, Oscar, will vote for Clinton and against Trump, who has staked his campaign on building a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico, deporting undocumented immigrants and “extreme vetting” of new immigrants, and who has made comments that many consider deeply offensive to Hispanics. Tinoco made sure her younger relatives registered to vote this year, too.
“Trump kind of woke all this racism that was dormant and now I don’t feel secure in my own home,” she said. “Trump is scary . . . many Hispanic families feel actual fear.”
One Glen Cove resident said she has not chosen who she’s voting for, but nonetheless she had strong feelings about Trump’s qualifications.
“I haven’t decided, but I do think that Trump is an idiot who knows nothing, and I think Hillary is much more educated,” said Daphne Johnson, 58, who works in sales. She said she will vote based on “who won’t get us bombed, and I do think that’s Hillary.”
“It’s scary,” she said of the election.
The passion can run as hot on the other side, too. Clinton has long been a lightning rod for animus and accusations, whether deserved or stirred by the “vast right-wing conspiracy” she cited years ago when her husband Bill was president. Her “damn emails,” as Sen. Bernie Sanders said in their first primary debate about the private server she used while U.S. secretary of state, continue to cast a shadow despite the decision by the FBI not to pursue criminal charges.
Joseph Macchio, 68, a retired owner of a moving company who said he was disgusted by a broken political system that wasn’t “what my old man landed on the beaches of Normandy for,” was clear about one thing. “I think Hillary Clinton is a communist and a liar — I’m not voting for Hillary,” he said. “I think Donald has some great ideas but I don’t think he can run the country — though I’m voting for him.”
Louise Brooks, 73, a semiretired real estate broker, said, “I have to vote, absolutely.” She said she tends to vote for Republicans, but said policy positions aren’t going to be a deal-breaker. “It’s character. When they get in office they could change any position they wanted to so you vote mostly for the person you trust.”
The political divisions have stirred up perhaps even more family infighting this year than usual, as Trump garners more support among male voters versus Clinton’s greater support among women. Add to that opposing party affiliations and the result can be some tense dinner conversations.
“I’m a Democrat and my husband is a Republican, and there’s a lot of fighting in the house,” said Patrina Grella, 55. “I want to kill him.”
Her parents came to the United States from Italy, she said, at a time when Italians were disparaged and made to feel unwelcome. “It’s easy to forget — I never forget,” she said, standing with her mother, Giuseppa Vitale, 76, who was visiting from Astoria, Queens.
“I just think Trump is very vulgar, very dangerous; we’re looking at World War III with this one,” said Grella. “My husband likes Trump because he speaks his mind, says things people believe and are afraid to say, and isn’t in anyone’s pocket so he’ll make change. I say how are you going to make change when he has no idea about foreign affairs or the way the government works?”
Grella added, “If you talk to a Trump supporter, there’s so much hate and anger in their voice it scares me.”
Trump inspires enthusiastic support in voters who believe he’ll use his business experience to improve the economy, and who like his disdain for “political correctness,” his focus on immigration and trade agreements, and his “anti-globalism,” as Danny Savillo, 37, put it. Savillo, who said he may register to vote, added, “There’s too many Clintons, too many Bushes in politics. It’s time for a change.”
Rosalie Passalacqua, 55, used to work for the school district but now baby-sits a grandson and said she wasn’t a fan of either candidate. But “if I had to choose it’ll be Trump,” she said. “It seems like he wants to do something for Americans with jobs, and besides his big mouth, he seems like a good businessman.”
But Trump has failed to fully persuade some voters with a long history of voting Republican.
Victor DeAngelis, 58, a retired restaurant owner, said he just doesn’t like the way Trump speaks or his arrogance. “I’d like to vote for Trump if he can get his act together. He’s not a bad man but. . . I’ll be frankly honest with you, I might not vote because neither are speaking the truth.”
McGrady said he had supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the primaries, but could not support Trump. “When Trump was nominated, I left the party, or it left me.”
Chery Webb, the 73-year-old head of the Glen Cove Women’s Golf Club — 18-Hole League, said Clinton was “far better prepared for the office. I like a businessman in there, but as (former New York City Mayor and billionaire) Michael Bloomberg said, he’s not the one,” Webb said.
Clinton, who won re-election to a second term as U.S. senator for New York in 2006 before losing the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, also has failed to sway some who may have supported her in the past.
Danny Cipriano, 33, who works in a local nonprofit social service agency, is one. This time, he said, he was “a little on the fence just because of everything she’s been involved in, between the emails with the FBI investigation and the Clinton Foundation and people are always saying she’s lying and covering things up, so it’s a lot to consider. The good thing is she definitely wants it.”
He added quickly, “Trump, I’d never vote for him. For the first time, it’s a strong possibility for me to look at a third-party candidate.”
His co-workers, Michael Ricciardi, 26, and Shannon Collings, 34, lunching with him at a sidewalk table recently, are both going to vote for Clinton. “I’d rather have Hillary’s experience, beliefs and values,” said Ricciardi, who lives in Glen Cove. “I love this country so much, and see how admired it is around the world, people being able to come here and make a life based on what is in their hearts and on what they can achieve. I can’t stomach the fact that a reputation potentially built by Trump could spoil that world view.”
“He says ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” said Collings, who recently left Glen Cove for nearby Sea Cliff. “I think it’s pretty great now.”
But many voters still are undecided, waiting to be convinced. Meanwhile, Doug Goldstein, owner of the Charles of Glen Cove hardware store, is just going to wait and see before making up his mind. While he was more impressed by Clinton in Monday’s presidential debate at Hofstra, he still was undecided because he didn’t feel he’d heard from either candidate a position specifically benefiting small-business owners such as himself.
“If I knew which was better for the small retailer I would have a decision, but at this point I don’t,” he said.
Jeanine Dimenna, 51, an owner and cook at the Glen Cove Golf Club’s grill, said she too was undecided. The whole thing just made her “embarrassed and it saddens me, that this is what it comes to,” she said. “I think Trump is just a disgrace to the people, and I don’t know if I’m voting for Hillary either . . . they’ve made it OK for bad behavior and I wasn’t raised that way.”
With Sophia Chang