By Bill Kirk bkirk@ eagletribune.com
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — For some local folks, the results of Tuesday’s election signals a shift in the country toward an “entitlement society.”
“There are more people in the United States who lean on the government and fewer people who want to be independent,” said Leo Jesudian, 61, of North Andover. “I moved here in 1971 from India and I didn’t come here to get a job or go to school. I came here to be an American.”
Others, however, say the election is an affirmation of President Obama’s policies over the last four years.
“I voted for Obama,” said Militza Rivera, 32, of Lawrence, who works at Panera Bread in North Andover. “He’s done a lot for kids who are trying to make a better future.”
The mother of four children, she said she likes Obama’s health care plan as well as Michelle Obama’s emphasis on children’s health and nutrition.
“She’s been a good role model,” she said.
Nationally, interviews with voters leaving polling places on Tuesday showed the president with a 10-point lead over Romney on the question of which candidate is more in touch with people like them. Of those holding that view, 91 percent voted for Obama.
If nothing else, Tuesday’s election showed that the country, and even people right here in the Merrimack Valley, are politically divided.
Not only did Obama win the national vote, but he won big in Massachusetts, and took every community in the Merrimack Valley except for North Andover.
Perhaps riding his coattails were people like Elizabeth Warren, a first-time candidate for elected office who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Wrentham. Brown won every community in the Merrimack Valley, except for Lawrence, where he lost by nearly 10,000 votes.
In a surprise to many people, another winner was John Tierney, the embattled Salem, Mass., congressman whose wife spent time in jail. His opponent was moderate, gay Republican Richard Tisei. In the Merrimack Valley, Tisei won every community that is in that congressional district.
“Tierney winning is a sad commentary on the electorate,” said Jesudian, sitting with some friends at Panera.
“Tierney is a disgrace,” agreed his friend, Charles ‘Chuck’ Papalia, 76, of North Andover.
Even worse, he said, Obama won because “there are more people in the wagon than outside pulling the wagon. Food stamps, welfare, entitlement programs. If you were on any kind of entitlement program, you voted Democrat.”
The vote for Warren over Brown was also hard for many people to understand yesterday.
“I was really surprised about Scott Brown,” said Brian Bartlett, 52, an Andover resident who was having lunch at Borelli’s Italian Deli on Merrimack Street in Methuen yesterday. “I liked him a lot. I guess the Democratic machine is far from dead in Massachusetts.”
Ralph Basiliere, 46, of Haverhill, said that while he liked Brown, he was happy that Warren won.
“Scott Brown is a good man,” said Basiliere, a veteran who was in the U.S. Marines from 1984 to 1988. “But I’m pleased with Warren and I’m pleased the Senate stayed Democratic and the House remained Republican. It’s good for checks and balances.”
He added, however, that he hopes to see Brown again soon — perhaps making a run for U.S. Senate in a special election if Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., becomes Secretary of State under Obama, as some have predicted.
“He’s a quality guy no matter how you cut it,” said Basiliere, as he ate lunch at a booth in Mike’s Deli in Haverhill.
His lunch companion, Corey McClintic, 29, of Somerville, said he voted for Obama because of Romney’s stance on veterans issues.
An Army veteran, McClintic said he feared a Romney presidency would “gut the Veterans Administration,” which he works for, and “privatize all government agencies.”
Several women interviewed yesterday said they were happy Obama won because of women’s issues.
“He’s not trying to take away health care and women’s rights,” said Tamarah Pinto, 31, of Lawrence, standing outside the A-1 Deli in downtown Haverhill. “You can do what you feel is right and your views count as a woman.”
Her friend, Mirca Rivera, 29, of Haverhill, said she liked Obama because “he has consideration for people with low income and he’s willing to help us.”
Inside the restaurant, Georgette Moysenko, 68, of New Hampshire, said she went for Obama because he was in favor of equal pay for equal work for women.
“We’re still not earning the same amount for the same jobs unless we’re in a union,” said Moysenko, who works at a career center. “It’s a struggle for women. We have to work twice as hard in the same job as a male, and we do free overtime just to keep the job.”
Romney, she said, “still lives in a cave. He doesn’t realize women can make decisions and think for themselves.”