'He was a bad governor. We lost jobs here'

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 00:00

“You’re going to win, Mitt!” shouted one member of the crowd. Another carried a sign reading: “Mitt is moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

A small cheer went up from outside the Beech Street polling centre where presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his wife cast their votes yesterday morning. But not everyone in this affluent, but largely Democrat neighbourhood the Republican candidate calls home feels the same way. The community may value him, but it doesn’t mean they will vote for him.

Janet Fry (73) often sees Romney’s wife doing her shopping at Shaw’s, the local grocery store, or buying toys for her grandchildren at Belmont Toys. Sometimes she sees the couple eating at Il Casale, an Italian restaurant.

“He’s well-liked here and seen as a down-to-earth kind of person,” she said.

So, surely she voted for him? “Oh, no,” Fry replied, almost recoiling at the idea. “I voted for Obama. I was always taught to support the working class. My aunts would turn in their graves if I voted for Romney.”

Frustrated but loyal

Janette Martin (60) also from Belmont, left the polling centre feeling frustrated but still wearing an Obama badge the size of a small dinner plate.

“They told me to remove my badge,” she says, still annoyed. “Maybe it’s because this is [Romney’s] local centre.”

Inside the gleaming new Beech Street centre, an activity centre for older people, Romney’s name is on a marble plaque on the wall that reads: “Diamond benefactors ($50,000-$99,000). Governor and Mrs Mitt Romney.”

“You know,” adds Martin, almost conspiratorially, “they say he lives here. He has a condominium around the corner from here. But he sold his house a few years ago. He’s just keeping his toe in the constituency.”

Martin wasn’t impressed by Romney’s stint as governor of Massachusetts, though Romney often cites his turnaround of the deficit problem here as a major achievement.

“He was a bad governor,” she says. “We lost jobs here, jobs were shipped overseas, and there were fewer women in state government by the time he left.”

In fact, Romney may have a hard time finding supporters around here.

In the 25,000-strong population of Belmont, there are four times as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

While Belmont backed Romney when he ran for governor in 2001, the town failed to back him when he lost the 2004 US Senate race to Ted Kennedy.

In fact, the last time the town voted for a Republican presidential candidate was in 1980.

Ron Sacca (60), a bus driver and Belmont native, was on hand to defend the Republican candidate yesterday.

He held a placard supporting Romney, as well as a folder containing Christmas cards he had received from the candidate, personal photographs of the former governor and a handwritten letter from the candidate.