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Voices from voters as 5 states make their pick for president

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., casts his vote during the 2016 Republican Caucus, Saturday, March 5, 2016 in Bowling Green Ky. (Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press)
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Voters in five states and one territory made their choices for presidential nominees on Saturday. Both parties held contests in Kansas and Louisiana, and Republicans in Maine and Kentucky and Democrats in Nebraska also made their picks.

Here’s a look at what some voters had to say as they went to the polls and met to caucus:

Both teacher Shawn Gruenig and her husband were “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s, eventually registering as Republicans in Louisiana.

But the 54-year-old New Orleans school teacher said she will probably vote for Hillary Clinton in this fall’s general election. She said she misses the old days of a Republican Party that she said was “a little bit more together, cohesive, kinder.”

As for her vote Saturday, in the state GOP she voted for Marco Rubio.

“Ted Cruz scares me,” she said. “And, oh boy, Donald Trump is – it was funny at the beginning but not anymore. So it was really a vote against Donald Trump and somebody who was the next in contention that I could live with myself voting for.”

Connie Belton, 65, a retired homemaker from Wichita, Kansas, had a message for Republicans who are uneasy about the potential nomination of Donald Trump as she voted in Kansas on Saturday.

“If the big, fat GOP don’t like him, they don’t like me,” Belton said, adding that if he isn’t the nominee she is going to write his name in on the ballot. She attended a rally Saturday before going to the caucus to vote for him.

“I adore Trump. I think his heart is as big as his hands,” she said. “And as big as other things, as he says.”

The mother of four is drawn to Trump because he is a businessman who she believes can run the country. She likes what he says about closing the border, going after the Islamic State and his love for America.

For Alan and Deborah Carey, it’s a house divided. He voted for Ted Cruz in Maine’s GOP presidential caucus on Saturday in Chelsea, Maine, while she voted for Donald Trump.

But the couple from Readfield, Maine, share many of the same concerns.

Alan Carey, a financial planner, said regulations imposed by politicians in Washington, D.C., on businesses by are in danger of forcing his business to close.

“They’ve got a chokehold on this country with the amount of regulations that continue to pour out of Washington, D.C.,” he said.

And, he said, taxes remain way too high.

“You can’t have everyone sitting back on the dole taking money while the rest of us work and give it to everyone. There has to be fairness. I don’t want to be a millionaire, but I’d like to be able to support myself,” he said.

Brent Crampton got to sleep around 4 a.m. after working his club DJ job, but still managed to be at a Democrat caucus site near Omaha, Nebraska, at 8 a.m. to vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Crampton, 31, says the race for the party’s presidential nominee “was just too important to me to sleep in.”

“I have never heard someone so idealistic who has the experience to back it up,” Crampton said.

He says he would still cast a vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee. He says supporting any Republican from the current field is not an option.

“It’s important to me that leaders have compassion and a sense of social justice,” he said.

Twenty-year-old Halie Saldana emerged from Lewiston Middle School in Maine wearing a Ted Cruz sticker on her shirt, and said she hopes she also gets a chance to vote for the Texas Republican in the general election. But Saldana, a general studies student at Central Maine Community College, said her vote was as much about blocking the ascent of Donald Trump as it was about supporting Cruz.

“Donald Trump is a bigot. He’s sexist and he’s racist, and I would hate to see someone like that as a presidential candidate,” she said.

Saldana is a Lewiston resident and registered Republican who has lived in Maine’s second-largest city for most of her life and also works as a banking specialist.

Larrin Orellana, 43, was pushing a stroller with his daughter out of the Metairie, Louisiana, polling place. He, his wife and children had walked down the street from their home to vote. He said he voted for Clinton, albeit with some reservations about her trustworthiness.

“I trust her more than I do the Republicans but I think she’s part of the whole, big machine. But anyone but Trump I guess,” he said.

Orellana, who had emigrated from Ecuador, said initially he was excited about a Trump candidacy but found the businessman’s comments about Mexican immigrants offensive and questioned how he responded to being asked about the Klu Klux Klan.

“That’s a hate group. You’re toying with people. That’s what he’s doing. He’s basically toying with everybody,” he said.

When asked why he chose Clinton over her fellow Democratic contender, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Orellana said Sanders was too far to the left, adding “you need a centrist.”

Tucker Oldham stood in line at Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky, to cast his vote for “anybody but Trump.”

He decided on Marco Rubio, not because he particularly likes him but because he believes he has the best shot at rallying the Republican establishment and taking on the billionaire.

Oldham, 46, said he is horrified by Trump’s vulgar talk and vague campaign promises, and believes he’s nothing more than “a marketing machine.” He has been disappointed by the combative, insulting turn the primary has taken. He said he’s a lifelong Republican but “that might change after this election.”

Oldham, who works in technology sales, described having to choose between Trump and Hillary Clinton in the general election as “an absolute nightmare.”

“I’ll vote for my cat Sally as a write-in.”

Tara Evans, a 52-year-old quilt maker from Bellevue, Nebraska, said she plans to caucus for Clinton because of her promises to pursue equal pay for women and to prevent price gouging by pharmaceutical companies. Evans said she also hoped to see a woman in the Oval Office and noted that a Clinton presidency would also include former President Bill Clinton.

“We’d be getting two for the price of one,” she said while waiting in line outside of Bryan High School. “I like Bernie, but I think Hillary had the best chance of winning.”

Evans said she looked at the Republican field but “didn’t like what I saw” when looking for someone who reflected her values.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Patrick Whittle in Lewiston, Maine; Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas; Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Rebecca Santana in Metairie, Louisiana; David Sharp in Chelsea, Maine; Bruce Schreiner in Florence, Kentucky; and Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky.