As primaries wind down, US voters eye general election

As primaries wind down, US voters eye general election

(AP) – Voters in six states cast ballots in presidential primary contests Tuesday, but many were clearly looking ahead to the general election.

Voters in Democratic and Republican primaries told The Associated Press they have long been weighing and comparing candidates of both parties with an eye toward who would make the best general election candidate in November.

Hillary Clinton reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on the eve of Tuesday‘s voting, according to an AP tally. Her total is comprised of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses and super delegates, the party officials and officeholders who can back a candidate of their choosing.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump has had the nomination locked up for weeks.

Tuesday‘s elections in New Jersey, California, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota featured a contest between Clinton, the former secretary of state, and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is urging super delegates to drop their support for Clinton, arguing he is a stronger candidate to take on Trump.

Here are some voters’ thoughts:

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In San Diego, 82-year-old Harry Backer strolled past cyclists, skateboarders and kayakers on the way to vote for Clinton. The retired teacher, who also worked in construction, said America needs a level-headed, grounded woman with world experience.

“I’m left of Bernie Sanders, but I know that she’s the candidate that can possibly get something done,” Backer said.

He also wanted to be part of history in making Clinton the first woman to top the ticket of a major U.S. political party.

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In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lucy Demir voted for Sanders.

“I like him because he’s really honest,” said Demir, 37. “I think he’s really direct, and I appreciate how he really is trying to stay on his side of the street. I actually think some of his ideals are kind of like utopic and he’s probably not going to achieve them, but I like his character.”

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In Closter, New Jersey, an upscale suburb, Izabela Biel voted for Trump, saying his success as a businessman symbolizes the American dream for her. Biel came to the U.S. from Poland about 25 years ago, and she offered that even though he isn’t the perfect candidate, she prefers him to the Democratic candidates, who “want to make everybody equal.”

“I grew up in communism,” said Biel, 46. “I’ve lived it, and I absolutely know that it’s proven that it doesn’t work. You can’t make everybody equal; that just doesn’t exist in the real world.”

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Bob Burhenn, 82, a retired Sioux Falls, South Dakota, businessman, said he voted for Clinton because it’s time to put a woman in the nation’s highest office.

“Men have been in charge long enough,” Burhenn said. “And they’re smarter than us, anyway.”

Burhenn said he was once a Republican but changed party affiliations within the last 15 years. He said he was a big supporter of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

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Paul Westendorf, a 53-year-old Sioux Falls resident who works in financial services, voted for Trump, though he wished he had other viable options. He said it was more about “finding what I dislike the least.”

“It’s hard to get a read on what he really stands for, and I think that some of that is intentional,” Westendorf said.

Westendorf is strongly anti-abortion, and he said he’s uncomfortable because he doesn’t have a good sense of Trump’s true stance on that issue. But he said Trump has the capability to surround himself with competent people and he hopes Trump can pull them together to build a great team.

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In Helena, Montana, decorative painter Carmela Linguista had no hesitation about whom she was voting for: “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.”

“Hillary has pretty much devoted her life to the needs of women and children,” Linguista said. “I think her forte is on the world stage.”

She also pulled few punches about Trump.

“The man is insane. He’s a danger,” she said. “He’s not presidential material.”

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Glenda Winslow, a 59-year-old special education teacher, has voted in every presidential race since she was 18, but she had never been as disappointed in her options as she was Tuesday in Sonoma, California.

“I’m not happy with anybody,” said Winslow, who voted for Republican Ben Carson despite knowing he would lose.

She said she couldn’t bring herself to vote for Trump or Clinton.

“I don’t think they have good morals,” she said.

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In Kearney, New Jersey, a blue-collar community, Antonio Cunha voted for Sanders, saying the candidate focuses on issues important to regular people.

“I like the idea of helping people afford college, whether it’s totally free or not,” said Cunha, 32, who works for a civil engineering firm. “Back in the day everybody got around with a high school education, but now I can see how mu ch more people make in their careers if they have college degrees. And everybody’s saddled with that debt, so that would be a big help.”

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In Montana, Sanders supporter Sonya Goes Ahead held out hope that he could still get the delegates needed before the primary.

“The other candidates are not very truthful. They are in it for money,” said Goes Ahead, who grew up on Montana’s Crow Reservation and is studying education at Montana State University in Billings.

Sanders was the first presidential candidate to campaign in Montana, in early May, when he also met privately with American Indian leaders from the state’s reservations.

“He wants to help communities, help bring jobs to the reservation,” the 24-year-old Goes Ahead said. “There’s not many jobs in my home – just the schools.”

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Associated Press writers Wayne Parry in Atlantic City, New Jersey; David Porter in Closter, New Jersey; Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey; Ellen Knickmeyer in Sonoma, California; Mary Hudetz and Russell Contreras in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Julie Watson in San Diego, and Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, contributed to this story.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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