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Diversity, political addicts mark panel

WILKES-BARRE – One is a 43-year-old female school teacher who supports Barack Obama. Another 43-year-old female – also a teacher -- plans to vote for John McCain.

There is a 67-year-old retiree who likes McCain and a 68-year-old retiree who favors Obama.

There’s a first-time voter, an 18-year-old college student from Wilkes-Barre and an 84-year-old retiree from Dallas.There’s a holdout for Hillary – one ardent supporter who may cast a write-in vote for Clinton on Nov. 4.

And in the mix is a former Iran hostage, a small business owner, Social Security recipients, a college professor, a sales representative, a health care manager, a mental health therapist, a mayor and councilwoman.They’re all part of The Times Leader’s Community Voter Panel, a group of Luzerne County residents who will help add a local voice to our coverage of the presidential race.

The 19-member panel of self-proclaimed political junkies will weigh in on every twist and turn as this historic race winds toward the finish line the first Tuesday of November.

They will offer their feedback on national issues such as health care, the war on terror, Social Security, taxes and the economy.

They will comment on the two national conventions, the presidential and vice presidential debates and any major announcements that are made in the next few months.

Here they are:

Evelyn C. O’Hara-Stine, 61, of Mountain Top; Democrat/undecided.

Robert G. Edgerton Sr., 84, of Dallas; Republican/McCain.

Donna Joseph, 55, of Kingston; Democrat/Obama.

Daniel J. Gildea, 59, of Laurel Run; Republican, McCain.

Bruce German, 72, of Shavertown; Democrat/undecided.

Glenys Karpavich, 56, of Jenkins Township; Democrat/leaning McCain.

Dorene Schutz, 47, of Wilkes-Barre; Democrat/Clinton.

Jill Rosenstock, 43, of Penn Lake; Democrat/Obama.

Susan Allen, 43, of Dallas; Republican/McCain.

Paul J.M. Stebbins, 28, of West Pittston; Republican/McCain.

Tony Thomas, 18, of Wilkes-Barre; Democrat/Obama.

Keith Noll, 34, of Plains Twp.; No party/Undecided.

Tom Hannigan, 37, of Dallas; Republican/McCain.

Rev. Jeffrey Aberle, 52, of Edwardsville; Democrat/Obama.

Charles Peterman, 50, of Kingston; Republican/McCain.

Stephen Cheskiewicz, 44, of Harveys Lake; Democrat/Obama, but open to McCain.

Robert McDonald, 51, of Kingston; Democrat/Obama.

Jack McIntyre, 67, of Plains Township; Republican/McCain.

Pete Klein, 68, of Dallas; Democrat/Obama.

The issues that are near and dear to our panelists are as varied as their backgrounds.

“I do not want four more years of Republican rule in the White House,” an undecided O’Hara-Stine said. “I just do not trust the background of Obama and his flip-flopping during the campaign.”

Republican Charles Peterman of Kingston, a sales representative, said choosing conservative judges is crucial, as is having a strong presence in the Middle East.

“Keep pressure on terrorists,” Peterman said. “Don’t let them relax.”

Thomas, 18, said the most important issues are the economy, the war in Iraq and health care.

Allen and Rosenstock are teachers – Allen a Republican for McCain and Rosenstock a Democrat for Obama.

“I like (McCain’s) philosophy about earmarks,” Allen said. “I look forward to seeing him veto an important piece of legislation because of the pork included in the bill.”

Rosenstock said Obama brings a “newness” that the world needs.

“He has the right ideas and approach for what America needs right now,” she said.

They are 19 people with 19 minds and many more opinions. We look forward to working with them and bringing their perspectives to our readers.

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