September 24, 2012

Off the Trail: Blue-collar workers seek candidate who'll make life less of a struggle

Money issues, from personal earnings to social spending, are critical to some making a living in the fishing industry.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Adam Trussel, a lobster packer from Alna, says he’s undecided about the presidential election and not even sure he’ll vote on Nov. 6, but if he does, it will be for the candidate most likely to lower his taxes.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Mike Baudanza, a lobsterman from Thomaston, says the presidency of Ronald Reagan has made him a longtime Republican voter.

Gabe Souza

Additional Photos Below

He doesn't approve of everything Obama has done, but blames obstruction tactics of the Republicans for sabotaging Obama's larger goals. "I think his ideologies are wonderful. I just wish he had the parties behind him to carry some of his wishes out," he says.


On the other side of the political spectrum is Mike Baudanza, a 54-year-old lobsterman from Thomaston. He keeps his boat at Owls Head and sells his catch to Ship to Shore, where Hooydonk works as a buyer.

Like Hooydonk, he's up at dawn and works all day, often motoring back into harbor at dusk. Baudanza is voting for Republican Mitt Romney "hands down. No question about it."

His loyalty to Romney is evidenced by the black-and-white picture of the candidate that he taped to the rear window of his pickup truck. He is passionate about his beliefs, and isn't shy about expressing his opinion to anyone who asks -- and many who don't.

"Nobody wants to snarl with me," Baudanza said after loading a barrel of bait into his 36-foot fishing boat, Red Hot. "I'm not college educated, but I'm pretty well-versed with what's going on. ... I can tell a nickel from a dime."

He is beyond exasperated with Obama and the Democrats. He might have been less conservative when he was younger, but everything changed for him when Ronald Reagan became president. "When Ronald Reagan took the oath of office, I noticed my paycheck go up by 25 bucks a week," he said. "I've voted Republican since then."

He makes a good living, and sees himself as solidly middle class. He's worked hard all his life. He's fished since high school and owned his own boat for 25 years. He has a 15-year-old boy, and hopes to stay on the water another 20 years and eventually turn his business over to his son.

Baudanza employs one sternman and spends $500 daily on bait and fuel at Ship to Shore. He's a small businessman who creates jobs, and believes the only way out of our current financial mess is to elect someone who makes job creation the No. 1 priority. The No. 2 priority has to be budget restraint. Romney is the best man for the job, he said.

"As you get older, you start to see things. I don't know how anybody thinks they can make $2 out of $1. I just don't see how you think you can do it without jobs," he said.

His biggest beef with the Democrats are policies that support what he calls an "entitlement society" where "everybody is owed something."

He took no offense whatsoever when he learned of Romney's "47 percent" comment, when the candidate suggested that nearly half the country doesn't pay taxes. He applauds Romney for speaking up. The percentage may be off a bit, but that's beside the point.

"He's talking about a segment of society (where) all they do is set back and try to find something for nothing," he said. "If the Democrats could come up with some ideas to curb fraud, I could buy into a lot of their philosophies. But as it is right now ... everything's just an open -- here it is, come and get it."

Their politics are very different, but Hooydonk and Baudanza have more in common than might appear. They show up at the same wharf every morning for work. Hooydonk buys the lobsters that Baudanza catches, and one depends on the other for their livelihood.

They share a solid work ethic and similar life goals.

Caught somewhere in the middle is Trussel, the 21-year-old kid from Alna who packs lobsters. He's a few years out of high school and trying to find solid footing so he can begin building his life.

In Maine, the election will be decided by working-class folks like Hooydonk, Baudanza, and, perhaps, Trussel -- if he gets enough time off work to make it to the polls.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Additional Photos

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Adrian Hooydonk unties lumber from his pickup truck last week at his home in Spruce Head. The lobster buyer doesn’t approve of everything President Obama has done, but blames Republicans for being obstructionist.

Gabe Souza


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