Voices from voters choosing candidates in 3 Western states

AP News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2016 12:29 AM
Voices from voters choosing candidates in 3 Western states

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona, Utah and Idaho voters made their choices on presidential candidates Tuesday, saying issues that matter most to them include the minimum wage, medical care for veterans and Native American affairs.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had overwhelming delegate leads heading into the contests, while Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and John Kasich hoped to reverse the sense of inevitability taking hold around the two front-runners.

Here's a look at what voters had to say:

Marie Howard, a 57-year-old Navajo Nation resident, supported Hillary Clinton in Arizona's presidential primary. She believes as president, Clinton would be sympathetic to tribal members.

Howard keeps postcards, an autographed photo and newspaper clippings that remind her of when Clinton visited her reservation and the Grand Canyon long before becoming a presidential contender.

"She's the only one who's been out here trying to make a difference," Howard said.

The Tonalea, Arizona, woman was among thousands of Navajos who were moved off Hopi land in a long-standing property dispute between the tribes. She believes Clinton would work to ensure that all families who were relocated get federal benefits that were offered for moving off their homeland.

Howard also said she hopes Clinton will get on board with Bernie Sanders' plan to provide free college tuition.

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Justin Pallister, a 17-year-old from Meridian, Idaho, was eager to participate in his first election Tuesday.

Seventeen-year-olds can caucus in Idaho and several other states as long as they'll turn 18 before the Nov. 8 general election.

Pallister and 10 friends were rooting for a little-known candidate, San Diego businessman Rocky De La Fuente, in Idaho's Democratic presidential caucus.

"He has a low chance of winning so we want to see if we can get him somewhere," Pallister said. "We have to go there and make people change their minds."

If De La Fuente quits the race, Pallister likely will support Bernie Sanders. Pallister's parents, like many of Idaho's established Democrats, are vying for Hillary Clinton. But Pallister likes what Sanders says about raising the minimum wage.

"He seeks equalization for everyone — for men, women and children and for gay people," Pallister said. "His morals seem to be in the right place, I guess."

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Becoming a Trump supporter took some convincing for Daniel Ramirez.

The 28-year-old Phoenix resident said he initially considered the businessman a "sideshow." But eventually, the potential of having a president elected without the help of outside money became Ramirez's priority.

"I had to put my big boy pants on and say, 'There's more to this guy,'" Ramirez said.

But if Trump becomes president, his anti-establishment moxie could come in handy if things go wrong, Ramirez said.

"If we need to impeach him, I suspect it would be a fairly short process," he said.

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Brandon Perry of South Jordan, Utah, says he's caucusing for Ted Cruz because he thinks the Texas senator can stop Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee.

Perry, a 35-year-old real estate developer, says he started out supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker but became a Cruz supporter as the field narrowed.

Perry said he thinks Trump is an untrustworthy TV persona who will say whatever it takes to get elected. He said the billionaire tries to stir up people's hate and anger.

"My perception of Trump is that he's morally bankrupt," Perry said.

Perry said he likes John Kasich but the Ohio governor has no chance of winning. He added stopping Trump is the most important issue to him as a voter.

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Lorraine and Donald Maloney of Cameron, Arizona, voted for Ted Cruz at a Navajo Nation polling site.

The longtime Republicans said their beliefs most closely align with Cruz, although they haven't heard him specifically mention American Indian affairs.

"You don't hear anyone mention the Natives," said Lorraine Maloney, 60. "All these different candidates say they're going to do this or that for certain people — the Hispanics, the whites. That's the sad part."

The couple said they liked Donald Trump's business sense but were turned off by his treatment of other candidates.

They hoped Cruz would make it easier for veterans to get medical care. Donald Maloney, a Vietnam vet, has problems hearing but said his ears never got tested when he returned from the war.

He said other Navajo veterans struggle too but often give up seeking help from the federal government after encountering difficulties.

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Donald Trump supporter Easton Brady, 19, of Provo, Utah, said he's proof that not all millennials are behind Bernie Sanders.

He acknowledged Trump doesn't play as well in Utah as other parts of the country, despite the state's solidly conservative bent. That's partly because people are loyal to Republican establishment leaders like Mitt Romney, who's well-loved in the state, Brady said.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brady was a big Romney supporter — until the former presidential candidate made a speech sharply critical of Trump. Now he wants to tear up his Romney T-shirts.

Brady thinks Utah residents are afraid to be public about supporting Trump. But he thinks the billionaire, with his brash style, is more authentic than other politicians.

"I think Trump says a lot of dumb things, but he's human," Brady said. "I don't care."

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Associated Press writers Felicia Fonseca in Cameron, Arizona; Adam Kealoha Causey in Phoenix; Kate Haake in Boise, Idaho; Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City; and Michelle Price in Orem, Utah, contributed to this report.