BUCKS HARBOR – A biting wind rolls off the water as George Ingrish twitches his fiberglass skiff up the rocky boat ramp. It’s just about noon, and the first part of his workday is over.
A lobsterman from Machiasport, Ingrish has hauled and set traps all morning from his 39-foot lobster boat, Crystal Lea. He’s headed home in his pickup truck, skiff in tow, for the next part of his workday.
He’s happy to talk politics, he tells a questioner, but he’s not planning to vote.
“I don’t see where it makes much of a difference. I can’t see where Obama or the other guy really makes much difference in my life. Nothing really changes. It doesn’t seem to affect what I do,” says Ingrish, a father of four.
He’s registered to vote, as an independent, but has given this election scant attention. The topic frustrates him. “I would just as soon vote for a Democrat as a Republican if I thought it was worth voting for,” he said.
He is not alone with his ambivalence. In the last presidential election, Barack Obama received exactly as many votes as John McCain in Machiasport. Each received 260 votes.
Across all of Washington County, Obama edged McCain by fewer than 200 votes, 8,246 to 8,077. As far as Maine goes, that’s as close as it gets. Obama won in every county in Maine in 2008 except Piscataquis.
Things might end differently for Obama this time.
Republican yard signs are visible throughout Machias, Machiasport, Steuben, Jonesboro, Jonesport and towns in between, and it’s hard to find many people who speak favorably of the state of the country or the prospects for Washington County.
Ingrish was speaking for himself, but represented the views of disaffected would-be voters when he said, “Washington County has always been deprived of everything regardless of who’s in the president’s office. We usually get the wrong end of the stick. I never really see where it makes much of a difference who is the president, because everything always seems to stay the same, really.”
At Helen’s Restaurant in Machias, the breakfast conversation is about the second presidential debate the night before. Mitt Romney won, diners agree, and Obama’s liberal policies only add to the misery — here and across America.
People don’t bother to look for work in Washington County, they say, because there are no jobs. And even if there were jobs to be had, it’s just as easy for some people to stay home and collect welfare “off the government dole.”
The country’s deficits are unsustainable and are going to bankrupt the grandkids, said 83-year-old George Gendron, who works as a maintenance supervisor at the hotel next door, the Machias Motor Inn.
“I’m pretty much an independent, but I think I am going to be a Republican this year,” said the Air Force veteran, who made his career as a civil servant in Washington, D.C. He grew up in southern Maine, and retired to Machias for the hunting and fishing.
He doesn’t like Obama personally and doesn’t trust him. “He’s a Muslim. What can I say?”
He gave Obama’s record a resounding thumbs down. “I don’t think anyone can come in now and pay off all those bills. The deficit is our biggest problem,” he said.
But, he cautioned, people who think Romney is going to come in and cut taxes and fix the deficit are kidding themselves. The deficit will only be paid down if taxes are increased across the board. The talk of cutting taxes is foolish, he said, if you also want to pay down the deficit.
He characterized the political talk about cutting taxes as pandering.
“It’s a bunch of poop,” he scoffed. “They’re politicians.”
He predicted a Romney win in Washington County.
Stephen J. Smith guaranteed it.
Obama may win Maine, “but we’ve got the Second (Congressional) District wrapped up for Romney. It’s a wrap,” said Smith, a self-described “short, fat, bald man” who owns Smitty’s Trading Post.
His business is firearms. He buys, sells and trades guns of all shapes and sizes, and teaches people how to use them.
He’s voting Republican across the board — “no ifs, ands or buts” — and said most of the people he knows will do the same. He doesn’t think the election will even be close up here.
The last four years have been disastrous, he said. People have no money, no jobs and no prospects. The country’s social welfare system has made it attractive for folks to stay home and not work, he said. The only reason the unemployment rate is dropping is because people have stopped looking for work, Smith said.
His motivating issues?
“Small business and jobs and we the people,” he said.
As a gun-shop owner and proud member of the National Rifle Association, Smith vigorously backs any candidate who supports gun rights.
In this election, he said, it’s a clear choice.
Back at the boat ramp, Ingrish shrugs his shoulders. Obama, Romney — what difference will it make?
All he knows is that he has less money in his pocket now than at any other time since Bill Clinton was president. He’s paying more than $4 for a gallon of diesel fuel, and pumps about 60 gallons at a time for his boat, at least twice a week. “It’s the price of doing business,” he said.
He has no intention of pumping less fuel or fishing less. He just shells out more money.
He’s fished here since he was 9 and intends to do so the rest of his working life, regardless of the outcome of the election.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: