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In a Town Off the Campaign Trail, N.H. Voters Mull Their Primary Choices

Sam Evans-Brown
Breakfast at Laney's is in an out-of-the-way shopping plaza in Somersworth.

At seven in the morning the day after the Iowa caucus, Breakfast at Laney's in Somersworth is pretty quiet. The 6 AM crowd has moved out and the 9:30 "rush" is still rolling out of bed.

As a campaign stop, the diner has been similarly quiet: Only four candidates have visited Somersworth this election season -- Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Martin O'Malley -- and none have dropped by since November. 

The Occasional Voter: Thomas Burch

Out in front stands Thomas Burch, a transplant from Durham, North Carolina, smoking a cigarette.

"I love it up here, it's quiet," he says, "Politics up here is interesting. What's going on now is just a lot of controversy, and I think it's on... what's that man's name? Trump, Donald Trump. I think he needs to calm down some, I really don't want him President. I really think he'll mess up the economy. I don't know who I'll vote for, but I'm not voting for him."

"I usually vote. I haven't voted for a couple of years. Obama did good. Some people said he did bad, but he did good with the poor people. He helped me out with getting insurance, and I've never had insurance. So, I really like Obama and I hope somebody gets into office like Obama, but a little bit stricter on Isis. But to me personally he's been doing good."

The Strategic Independent: Mike Lapoint

Inside, Mike Lapoint, who says he's an independent "mostly toward the Republican side" sits reading a paper and drinking his coffee. He answers questions with as few words as possible, but says he's "not too thrilled" about what's going on in the Republican primary this year.

His candidate of choice, Ben Carson, is "way low" in the polls, "so I'm going to have to rethink that so it's not a wasted vote."

As to where he's leaning at the moment? He's thinking he'll jump the fence to the Democratic primary, because he "would rather see Bernie than Hillary."

The Odd Couple: Jay Morganella and Theresa Johanson

In the corner, where they've been stationed since before the departure of the early crowd, sit Jay Morganella and Theresa Johanson, boyfriend and girlfriend and partners in a karaoke business.

"I've only registered to vote once, and I've never voted," says Morganella, "My right as an American is I can hate them all equally, and it really to me my vote could count but I usually don't find that one person that I feel that I can back."

"I on the other hand, I vote whenever I can," interjects Johanson, "I try to educate myself on what's going on in the political world and I try to make an educated decision and my partner... complete opposite."

"I could tell you its between Trump and Christie -- who I don't think has a chance at this stage -- or Bernie Sanders," says Morganella. Johanson says she's decided for Sanders.

"Niether of them are establishment, even though people can say that Bernie's been around for almost 30 years. And Trump, the same way, completely against the establishment, and just for what the people want," Morganella goes on, "No more political correctness. Political correctness has just gotten so out of hand. And that's what I like about this year is both sides have at least one person who's radical," he says.

Johanson chuckles and shakes her head, noting that she is sometimes embarrassed to talk about politics when Morganella is around. She points out his shirt, "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups... and its the capital building" she reads, bursting into laughter again.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.
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