Economy, jobs are public's top concerns as election season picks up pace
Jim Sigmon, a retired agricultural economist who lives in Prescott, sees the presidential election in stark terms.
"The next presidential election will be one of the most critical of our lifetimes because we are going to decide whether we are going to take the country toward the socialist system or the capitalist system," Sigmon said Saturday.
"My fear is we will continue on the present course with more restrictive rules and regulations by the government," Sigmon elaborated. "My hope is we will free society up from oppressive government control and strengthen the individual and the business enterprises."
Interviewed just after the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and a few days before the Democrats gather in Charlotte, N.C., Sigmon said both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney need to cite more specifics about economics. He added neither candidate has produced "solid proposals that they are willing to fight for and push through."
Sigmon was among 10 Prescott-area residents and visitors ranging from 22 to his age of 76 who aired their hopes and fears about the presidential campaign Saturday at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza while perusing the Faire on the Square arts and crafts show. And while the Courier did not inquire about party affiliation or whom they plan to vote for, a majority expressed support for Romney.
The economy and jobs appear to be on most of their minds.
"My hope is the economy gets better," said Kim Garrett, a 42-year-old building materials dealer who is single, lives in Prescott and is backing Romney. "I fear if Obama gets re-elected we will have another four years of a stagnant economy."
Garrett said she wants to hear "more concrete plans on job creation and what (the candidates) plan to do for the economy."
Jobs and the economy are what matter to Don Cox, a 76-year-old vendor at the arts and crafts show who retired from the wholesale food business and lives in Surprise.
"This country has to be put back to work," said Cox.
A Romney supporter, Cox said he spent hours watching the Republican convention on Fox News.
Another Romney backer, Tucson homemaker Melissa Bratt, 52, said she hopes whoever is elected Nov. 6 "will do something about the economy. We obviously need to do something about jobs. We need to cut spending."
The perceived overspending by the federal government came up in a conversation with retired marketer Pat Culliney of Williamson Valley and retired banker Jack Roulier of Prescott.
"The issue of the election is we've got to live within our means," said Culliney, who is married, past the age of 65 and moved here a month ago from Tucson. He added the federal government is spending $1 billion a day of money "we don't have."
He asked rhetorically, "What do you think we should do: raise taxes or change governments?"
Both political parties "can't get together and agree on budgets or much of anything," said Roulier, a 69-year-old widower and registered Independent. "I don't have much hope of either party giving in."
He continued, "My fear is we are headed the same path as Greece and other countries in Europe right now."
By contrast, Suzy Harrelson, a 52-year-old clerical worker for a school district in Mesa, said, "I trust enough in our economy."
Harrelson, who is single, said she has not made up her mind on which candidate to support Nov. 6. She said speakers at the Republican convention "put their message out to reach a certain audience - but not me."
"I hope whoever ends up being president looks at what the people want and not what the politicians or big business want," Harrelson continued.
Harrelson said the candidates need to talk more about the future of Social Security, adding, "I am to an age that I have to start worrying."
Preserving Social Security and Medicare is a position Ginny Bruenning, 70, of Sun City talked about as she sat on a bench with friends who belong to the Sun City Recreation Center.
Bruenning, a retired real estate agent and broker, said the candidates are not talking enough about illegal immigration. She does not want to deport undocumented immigrants who are already in America, but wants to make it tougher for them to enter the country.
Obama and Romney are not talking enough about the future of American involvement in the war in Afghanistan, said Kelly Hancey, a Phoenix physician's assistant who turned 30 Saturday.
Hancey said she is a "huge" Romney supporter and thinks his business background will make him a good president.
Ryan Ullrich, a 22-year-old nursing student at Yavapai College, said he hopes the voters will elect "a firm leader who tells the truth."
Ullrich, who is single, said protecting the environment is his top concern. He opposes the proposed Keystone Pipeline and believes the federal Environmental Protection Agency needs to be strengthened.