FAIRFAX, Va. – Residents of the purple state of Virginia, along with several other Southern states participating in Super Tuesday voting, began casting their votes with much anticipation and uncertainty.
Virginia voted Democratic for the first time since 1964 when President Barack Obama ran in 2008. He won the state again in 2012. In between, the state has been consistently Republican in presidential elections.
The day before Super Tuesday, a line of both students and town residents wrapped around George Mason University’s student center, The Hub, to hear Hillary Clinton, before she headed to Norfolk for her final appeal to the state. People fanned themselves and used Hillary Clinton signs to shield their eyes from the blazing sun on a winter day that felt very much like spring. People at the front of the line had waited since 11 a.m. for the 4:15 p.m. event.
Catrina Gomes, 35, a senior at George Mason University studying accounting, said she has been a Clinton fan ever since Bill Clinton was in office.
“For me, I think she’s the people’s candidate,” she said. “Just to hear her stand on education, since clearly I’m a student, and her plan to take down Trump.”
But farther along the line were voters who were less keen on attending the event to show support for Clinton. They were more interested in hearing her views before casting their votes.
Nour Nadri, 21, a student at GMU majoring in government and international politics, was sporting a Bernie Sanders shirt under a zipped up hoodie. She attended the rally for what she said is the very real possibility that Clinton will win the primary. She was seeking reassurance that Clinton was the candidate to vote for in the general election.
“Bernie speaks to issues that I find very important, one of those things being income inequality, the shrinking middle class, racial tensions in the United States,” Nadri said. “Although Hillary has recently come out and said she agrees with these things, and they both stand on the same side of these issues, it definitely has taken a little longer for her to come around then it has Bernie, so there’s definitely a more trustworthy factor there.”
Nadri is representative of the millennial vote around the country, with young voters leaning heavily toward Sanders. Recent surveys found that 46 percent of voters favor Sanders, while 35 percent favor Clinton.
“Young people are kind of sick of the politics game. They want somebody to just kind of tell it like it is, and not in the Trump, ‘I’m going to offend you way,’ but in the, you know, this is a problem and we need to talk about it and then actually giving solutions to solve these problems,” Nadri said.
“I don’t think her odds are good that she’ll change my mind,” she said of her primary vote. “I’m here because I like to keep an open mind, and also because if I can ask her a question that’d be great, in terms of just feeling more at ease with voting for her in the general should she win the primary.”
Charles Simmons, 19, a GMU freshman studying computer science, agreed that millennials are looking to vote anti-establishment, which is a big reason they are voting for Sanders. He did not attend the rally.
“Hillary Clinton is a name that everybody has heard a lot, so I feel like this generation, the millennials, are trying to look for something new, and so you know Hillary Clinton being there with Bill and all that, they kind of want to find somebody new, which is why some of them support Bernie, or some of them are like, ‘Yeah let’s go Trump, you’re fired,'” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Valbona Kunkel, 50, an Albanian immigrant who has been in the U.S. for 18 years and is a resident of nearby Arlington, Va., said she voted for Donald Trump.
“I want to see something different in American politics, and mostly in the conservative party, and I’m thinking he’s the person who can bring the change,” she said. “I want to see jobs in this country, I want to see things are growing.”
Kunkel said she agrees with many of his policies, including his stance on immigration, and ultimately wants to see a better future for her son.
“I heard on TV, people who vote for Trump are uneducated people, like media says those things, but really I’m an educated person, my husband and I both have PhD’s and I’m an astrophysicist,” she said.
However, it was after winning the Nevada caucuses that Donald Trump himself proclaimed that he loved the “poorly educated” in his victory speech.
“We won with highly-educated, we won with poorly educated! I love the poorly educated! We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people,” Trump declared.
At the same polling station at Arlington County Fire Station 10, Shannon Mancus, 33, a doctoral candidate at George Washington University, said she voted for Bernie Sanders because of his stance on climate change. She spent seven years on her dissertation on environmentalist narratives.
“I honestly went back and forth a lot, the fact that there was such a margin, and Hillary is leading in the primary made me feel good about casting my vote for Bernie, and I’ll be equally as excited to vote for Hillary in the election,” Mancus said.
She said that Clinton is inspiring and strong, but climate change is her number one concern, where Sanders has the stronger stance.
“I think overturning Citizens United … will save us from catastrophic climate change, and I think we need radical change rather than incremental change, which is why I kind of feel like I symbolically voted for Bernie, because I believe that radical change needs to happen,” Mancus said.
Reach reporter Heather Khalifa at email@example.com or 202-408-1488. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Tia Rinehart contributed to this story.
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