September 3, 2012

Off the Trail: Early jolt shapes worker's priorities

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

Another in a weekly series on what Mainers across the state say about the race for the White House -- and what they want from the next president.

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Roland Leclerc says he’ll vote for the candidate who’s able to unite politicians behind a common goal.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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PENOBSCOT - As a teenager, Roland Leclerc watched as both parents, an aunt and an uncle all lost their shoe-factory jobs in Berlin, N.H., when their employer moved the work offshore.

The job losses felt devastating not just to Leclerc's family, but to the community as a whole. In time, his parents ended up back on their feet, and Berlin mended from the economic and psychological blows.

But Leclerc was a changed man.

The prism through which he viewed the world shifted.

His first lesson about the complex relationships among local, national and international economies hardened him to harsh realities.

He has been politically aware and active ever since and has never passed up an opportunity to vote for a candidate at the local, state or national level.

Very likely, how he chooses to vote in November will reflect the sensibilities that he began forming when he was a kid growing up in Berlin.

Leclerc is 55 now, and lives a comfortable, working-class life with his wife, Marie, and their black Lab, Princess. A union man through and through, he works as an electrician at the local paper mill in Bucksport. He's worked there 36 years. His wife delivers the U.S. mail on a rural motor route.

They have two grown children, one living in Augusta and the other in Portland. Both received a public education, all the way through college.

Leclerc is a Democrat and proud of it. "But a lot of stuff the Democrats do, I don't believe in," he says. He has voted for Republicans in the past, including for George W. Bush in 2000.

He is a man of contradictions, who defies stereotypes or easy labels.

He buys American and goes out of his way to find American-made products even if it means he has to go without until he finds what he wants made on U.S. soil. Among his vehicles is a Subaru Outback, which he bought because it was built in the United States. He favored another Subaru model, but decided against it because it was made in Japan.

He bristles at the number of handouts given to people, but gladly supports spending tax dollars on policies that help people who truly need help -- and he readily admits that he hopes to avail himself of entitlements due him when he retires in his next decade.

He likes to hunt and fish, and is a past member of the National Rifle Association and the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. He gave up his NRA membership because of its support of Bush in the 2004 presidential election, even though he voted for Bush himself four years earlier.

He supports alternative energy, and calls attention to the solar panels on his roof. He considers himself an ardent environmentalist and knows to the penny how much he pays for every kilowatt of energy his pool and hot tub consume. He apologizes for the amount of driving he does because of the gasoline he burns.

He buys his food locally whenever he can. He investigates the source of his food before he buys it, and tries to seek out food that is grown and raised without chemicals or hormones. He and his wife make a monthly pilgrimage to Portland to load up at the city's health-food stores.

The upcoming election is very much on his mind. He cannot imagine voting for Mitt Romney because he doesn't like him and probably doesn't trust him. He believes the single biggest issue facing the United States is the national debt, and admits that President Obama probably is not the best candidate to deal with it.

(Continued on page 2)

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