Votes reflect Sussex County's culture and economic power

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    SUSSEX COUNTY-Sussex County residents might be part of the state of New Jersey, but when it comes to the votes they cast last week, they look more like Midwesterners. That's local academia's view of the election last week, where Sussex County led the state in percentage of votes to re-elect President George W. Bush. Sussex County voters' performance at the polls last week was no surprise: Their nearly 2-1 voting margin of President Bush over Democrat Sen. John Kerry earned them lead Bush supporter of all counties in New Jersey. At 65 percent, Sussex County had the highest percentage of votes for Bush than any other county in the state. "What's fascinating about Sussex County is that obviously we're part of New Jersey and the northeast, but it looks more like the Midwest," said Dr. Stacie Golin, sociology professor at Sussex County Community College. "We have the socially conservative atmosphere here that's more reflective of the country than the more liberal counties in New Jersey." The reasons behind the way county residents voted they way they did are several, Golin said: Among them, the rural atmosphere, close proximity to New York City and the September 11th threat that goes with it; strong religious beliefs that emphasize moral issues and a relatively good local economy. The local area has fared better than other places economically during President Bush's first four years, said Harry Damato, hihistory professor at SCCC. "We haven't felt the devastating impact on the economy," Damato said. That helped to make a Bush victory here an expected outcome. The Sussex County Clerk's Office reported that voter turnout in the county was 73 percent for this election. Of the 89,679 registered voters, 65,441 turned out to vote, according to the clerk's office. In local races, only one Democrat n William Cunningham in the Hamburg Boro Council race n received more votes than his Republican opponent. In that race, Republican Joyce Oehler received the second-highest number of votes to win the second of two open seats. "No surprise, it's a pattern," Damato said. "We're a well-known Republican county." County officials had not yet broken down vote totals to determine the impact of the campaign to get out the youth vote. Nationally, an analyst estimated that a steady 17 percent of the 18- to 26-year-old vote turned out at the polls n no different than in past presidential elections. In Sussex County, however, young people were more involved in this election than in years past according to SCCC Professor Dr. Anthony Balzano. "I've never seen the student body more activist about voting ever in my life," said Balzano, professor of sociology and anthropology who has been teaching since 1982. "A lot of students who voted spoke about their voting experience," he said. "They really enjoyed it and they were very serious about it. It's refreshing." Golin agreed. "More of my students probably voted this time than in the years past that I've taught," she said, adding that part of the reason may be that college-age students seemed to have a lot at stake. "Some of my students have friends who have been deployed and some of my students have been deployed," she said, explaining that this age group is seen as having strong religious faith, and they were old enough to feel the impact of September 11th when it happened, she added. The idea of a draft, too, may have also made this election more personal for young people. Damato said quite a few of his students favored Kerry. Golin said she heard many of her students say they were Bush supporters and express frustration that they're living in New Jersey n one of the states that went to Kerry. "They're frustrated knowing they're in one of the blue states, but then they get validated nationally," she said. "It's refreshing to see young people get involved," Balzano said. "It will be interesting to see if they carry