Biden, Trump haven't sealed deal with some voters

NEWBURYPORT — Republican President Donald Trump is running for a second term in the Oval Office, but Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden has been topping most of the polls in his bid to become the nation's 46th commander in chief.

Very few voters' minds seem to need to be made up before Election Day on Nov. 3, but a trio of local residents said they haven't jumped on any bandwagons.

Danielle Harrison is a 21-year-old from Newburyport who just missed being able to vote in 2016 and said she is leaning toward Biden. But the former vice president has not closed the deal for her.

"I typically lean toward being a Democrat, but I also lean toward voting for whomever is going to provide this country with what we most need at the time," Harrison said. "Whether that is a Democrat or a Republican, I leave that to the person. For now, I can assure you that I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I don't think that he is doing great things for our country. So I am swaying toward Biden."

Braeden Zellen is an 18-year-old Amesbury resident and will vote for the first time in November. The Amesbury High School senior said he has not decided who to back in the presidential race.

"They have both been a part of some sketchy stuff," Zellen said. "Both of them have accusations flying about them, left and right. So you really have to do your job and decide what is fake and what is true in the media right now."

Social media has played a large role in the 2020 election campaigns, according to Harrison.

"Social media is a great thing to have and we're very fortunate to have it but it can also be very negative toward finding out legitimate information about these candidates," she said.

Black Lives Matter protests and even riots have broken out across the country after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. Zellen said the protests did not influence his vote but he wants to see "change and justice in America."

"I want to see everyone treated equally and given fair opportunities," Zellen said. "If the current president can't do that and the next one might be able to then, yeah, that might influence my vote."

Harrison said the COVID-19 pandemic and race relations are her two most important issues.

"The economy is important but Trump should be focusing on those things, too," Harrison said. "And, from what I have seen, it always ends up being about money. That, is of course, important. But there are other important things, in my opinion. Joe Biden seems to be more human. He appears to be for the people and that is what this country is all about, 'We the People.'"

Cyric Riley is a 33-year-old wildlife rehabilitator from Fremont, New Hampshire, who said Biden and Trump have only succeeded in getting him to vote for Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins.

Riley was a big supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and "fought hard for his campaign" in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential races. But Riley said he can't see himself voting for Biden this year.

"Hawkins is supporting the majority of the platform that Bernie Sanders was beholden to," Riley said. "I'm not pulling the trigger for Biden because he's not pulling the trigger for the platform. Biden does not support any of the policies that are going to sustain and improve human life. He is not there and I am not there for his current platform. It does not improve enough and does not do enough for the American public."

Riley said health care and climate change are the two biggest issues for him. He has received pushback from fellow Sanders supporters but said he is going to vote for his values.

"They keep telling me a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump," Riley said. "They are also trying to convince me that I am privileged, but I am the furthest thing from privileged. I exist in a couple of marginalized communities. I am permanently disabled and a member of the queer community, and a lot of my rights are at risk because Trump keeps hacking away at them. But, this is purely a policy piece for me."

Zellen said he doesn't intend to cast his ballot lightly.

"This election will affect the way Americans live their lives, every single day," Zellen said. "If Biden is in, that is a big change from the Republicans. If Trump stays, we apparently will do what the Republicans want us to do. It will be a big culture change if we change sides like that."

As far as Riley is concerned, a vote for Biden is just the same as a vote for Trump.

"Either you go red MAGA or you go blue MAGA," Riley said. "They really are two sides of the same coin, in my mind. You're not getting enough policy change from either party to help the American public. That is the entire problem with the two-party system. They really have just codified themselves in a way that it has become more of an 'us versus them' mentality. It is no longer about what improves American life."

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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