4 Years Ago, Saugus Went For Obama. This Year, Trump

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Robert Woolworth stands in front of his house on Main Street in Saugus, which is decked out with Trump campaign signs. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Robert Woolworth stands in front of his house on Main Street in Saugus, which is decked out with Trump campaign signs. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Four years ago, the town of Saugus voted for President Obama.

This year, it voted for Donald Trump.

Voters in the blue-collar town wedged between Revere and Lynn along the North Shore cited many reasons for the town's change in sides.

Trump brought enthusiasm to the presidential election to Saugus. More people voted this year than four years ago, and while Hillary Clinton won fewer votes than Obama did, Trump won more votes than Mitt Romney.

Perhaps nowhere can the enthusiasm be seen as well as at contractor Robert Woolworth's house.

"There you go," Woolworth says, as a car drives by, honking. "See? It's been an adventure with the Trump signs up. We have our supporters who drive by, and morning, noon and night, beep, beep, beep, beep! Honking."

Since Trump won, Woolworth has been lighting up the signs at night.

"Now, I finally feel as though we got somebody in there who is not a politician, who doesn't need the job, doesn't necessarily want the job, but felt as though it was his obligation to step up and steer the country in the right direction," Woolworth says.

From left: Steve Castinetti, Charlie Thomas and Jack Klecker sit and chat about politics over breakfast at Hammersmith in Saugus. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
From left: Steve Castinetti, Charlie Thomas and Jack Klecker sit and chat about politics over breakfast at Hammersmith in Saugus. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

During the breakfast rush at the Hammersmith, a group of friends settles into a booth to talk politics.

Charlie Thomas, a retired fire captain, says he's always voted for Democrats, including four years ago when he went for Obama. But this time, he says he went for Trump.

"It wasn't a Democrat or Republican issue when I went in there," Thomas says. "It was who was a lesser [evil] of the two."

Sharing the booth with Thomas, his friend Steve Castinetti, no friend of Clinton, says he also voted for Trump. Castinetti is a former town selectman and a retired Navy captain.

"But I was also a cryptologist in the Navy for 40 years and handled highly classified information, and the way she handled her emails and classified information, in my opinion she should be in jail today," he says. "I could never support somebody that had no respect for national security or the safety of the United States."

Castinetti cites another reason for his vote for Trump.


"I think that the increase in the national debt has to be addressed, and I think Trump's been a successful businessman," he says. "I don't think I like the things he's said. Some of the stupid comments he made just don't resonate well with me, but I think you've got to look at the whole picture and realize the guy's a businessman, and if anybody's going to turn this country in the right direction, we've got to give this guy a shot to do it."

Also in the booth is another Navy retiree, Jack Klecker, who is unhappy about the reduction in the size of the Navy.

"We need a strong force, and I think Trump has got guts enough to maintain a strong force," Klecker says.

'It's Not Just The Economy'

The rush hour at the middle school comes later in the day, 2:10 p.m. to be precise, as parents and grandparents wait for the students to come out.

John Greene is waiting for his wife, who works in the school. He is retired from construction. He says he voted for Trump.

"The fact that he said he wanted to 'drain the swamp' and get the lobbyists, the special interest groups out of Washington, I think that was a big key to my decision to vote for him," Greene says.

Another reason, Greene says, is that Obamacare, in his view, has fallen apart.

At the Belmonte Middle School, 11 percent of students are Latino. Four percent are black.

Rose Gosselin is picking up her daughter. Originally from Haiti, Gosselin just moved to Saugus from Malden. She works as a property manager and just bought a house. A Bernie Sanders supporter, she did not vote for Trump.

"My person was Bernie, because of student loans and a lot of other things that he said, but Hillary Clinton wasn't my person either," Gosselin says. She did not vote for Clinton either.

The next morning brings rush hour at Home Depot, the town's biggest employer, as contractors fill their trucks.

Saugus is not a place that's hurting economically. Since 2011, home prices here have risen by 31 percent. And no one I spoke to for this story expressed a sense of being left behind.

"It's not just the economy, because the economy is doing really well for us contractors right now," says Steve Petkevitch, who says he voted for Trump for another reason.

"We're overpopulated," he says. "You keep letting people in this country. And I'm not just saying foreigners or whatever, but you gotta draw the line somewhere. It's not even the Latinos. They're hard workers. It's just the fact that you just can't let people into this country without going through the legal system or doing it the right way. It's not the fair to the people that did it the right way. All he wants to do is get rid of the criminals. He doesn't want to send people back that have kids here. That's not going to happen."

And Petkevitch had yet another reason for voting against Clinton.

"Benghazi," Petkevitch says. "That sent me over the edge. I got one son that's in the National Guard, and to say that it was about a video? Don't lie to me! I'm glad she lost."

Petkovitch lives in the neighboring city of Lynn. Like Saugus, it saw a 10 percent swing in voters from Obama to Trump.

Many of the contractors at the Home Depot come from nearby towns. Of these towns just North of Boston, only in Saugus was the swing in voters enough to give Trump a victory. But Winthrop, Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Peabody and Lynn all saw a swing in voters from Obama to Trump over the last four years — blue-collar towns that this year, at least, became just a little more Republican.

This segment aired on November 16, 2016.


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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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