‘Don’t get me started!’ Bay Area voters list worries, from inflation to gun violence

Michelle Armenta handed her ballot to the election worker at the drive-through voting station Tuesday and watched it slip securely into the box. But she felt anxious about far more than the shortlist of local issues she bubbled in on her ballot.

“Don’t get me started,” said Armenta, 53, who manages a San Jose food pantry.

“It’s sad to see that we are in Silicon Valley, one of the richest areas in the world, and to see homelessness and food insecurity and it seems to be getting worse. Possibly going into recession is terrifying. How families with young kids are buying their everyday staples, I don’t know.”

Michelle Armenta of San Jose
Michelle Armenta of San Jose talks outside the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters in San Jose, Calif., on June 7, 2022. (Photo: Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

Like Armenta, many voters across the Bay Area in Tuesday’s primary were already looking to an explosive general election in November, with concerns about everything from surging inflation to Roe v. Wade, gun control, war in Ukraine and extreme, divisive politics weighing heavily on their minds.

Indeed, a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California released last week reflected that angst, finding that Californians’ top concern was the economy, followed by housing costs and homelessness. But even with the state’s $97 billion surplus, many residents, regardless of political affiliation, are still mired in worry.

At the Rockridge Library in Oakland, Aileen Dolby, 60, a pro-choice Republican who often votes for Democrats, was so conflicted about the extreme fringes of both parties that she voted Tuesday against every incumbent.

“We need new candidates,” said Dolby, who works in real estate.

Wyatt Deverell, 18, wonders whether today’s economic woes will get worse by the time he graduates from college. “What will be the state of the economy then?” he asked.

For Kevin Keck, a 61-year-old transportation planner from Oakland, “it’s just the potential specter of a Republican takeover. I want to make sure the Democratic Party is in control.”

But Republicans say Democrats are largely to blame for the country’s ills and Republicans will get the country back on track.

James Calvin Austin Jr., 65, of Martinez
James Calvin Austin Jr., 65, of Martinez, casts a ballot at a polling place located inside the Contra Costa County Elections Department in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Photo: Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

“I’m one of those who believes Trump won. I can’t believe he would have all of the thousands of supporters at his rallies and still not win. It makes no sense to me,” said Dave Van Buren, 70, a retired contractor from Martinez. “It’s the same with Gavin Newsom’s recall. All those people wanted him out, so how did he just blow by them?”

Although Van Buren worries about the sanctity of the vote, that’s not discouraging him from voting.

“I have to,” he said. “I don’t like the way the country is going.”

Chief among his concerns is the debate over gun control. “Gun control is not the problem. Mental health is the problem yet they aren’t doing anything to deal with it.”

Gun violence tops the list of concerns for Jose Medeiros, 57, a retired Santa Clara County worker, especially since a Safeway clerk near his home in Campbell was shot and killed Sunday when he confronted a thief stealing liquor.

Jose Medeiros of San Jose
Jose Medeiros of San Jose talks at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters in San Jose, Calif., on June 7, 2022. (Photo: Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

“They need to have stricter gun laws – a longer waiting period to buy a gun,” he said. Even though California has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, he said, something else must be done.

Glenn Tsuchiya, 73, is a proud gun owner and works part time helping San Jose Police with crowd control, often at 49ers games. But with police always talking about “threat assessments” before each game, he worries about the pervasive culture of violence.

“I’m definitely more concerned about everything than I was 10 years ago,” he said.

Glenn Tsuchiya of San Jose
Glenn Tsuchiya of San Jose talks outside the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters in San Jose, Calif., on June 7, 2022. (Photo: Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

And none of it bodes well, he said, for the future of his three grandchildren.

“I want them to be able to live some place safe and not worry about them going to school and not coming home,” he said. “It seems you can’t go to the grocery store without looking over your back.”

Turnout for this spring’s primary was expected to be near a record low, and most Californians who did vote mailed in their primary ballots before Tuesday, and in some parts of the Bay Area, including Santa Clara County, only about 10% of voters were showing up to vote in person, elections officials said.

And while few expected Tuesday’s ballot issues to solve their problems or calm their fears, they have even less faith that the midterm elections in November will make them feel any better.

“I’m not optimistic,” said Saul Marquez, 57, of Oakland. “The next election is going to be a big fight.”

Contributed by local news sources

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