In Pittsfield and Loudon, support for Trump remains strong

Kendall Cote outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024.

Kendall Cote outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Perry and Anita Wise outside the Loudon polling place at the fire department in the center of town on Tuesday, January 23, 2024.

Perry and Anita Wise outside the Loudon polling place at the fire department in the center of town on Tuesday, January 23, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

New Hampshire State Representative and Trump supporter Clayton Wood outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024.

New Hampshire State Representative and Trump supporter Clayton Wood outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Dick Tasker outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday.

Dick Tasker outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Chris Shaw outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024.

Chris Shaw outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Chris Shaw shows his Donald Trump tattoo on his left calf outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday.

Chris Shaw shows his Donald Trump tattoo on his left calf outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Doug Clasby stood outside the Loudon polling place a the Loudon Fire Department on Tuesday, January 23, 2024.

Doug Clasby stood outside the Loudon polling place a the Loudon Fire Department on Tuesday, January 23, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

New Hampshire State Representative and Trump supporter Clayton Wood outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024.

New Hampshire State Representative and Trump supporter Clayton Wood outside the Pittsfield Middle High School on Tuesday, January 22, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Trump supporter Ken Park, Jr. stood outside the Loudon polling place a the Loudon Fire Department starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, January 23, 2024.

Trump supporter Ken Park, Jr. stood outside the Loudon polling place a the Loudon Fire Department starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, January 23, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Perry and Anita Wise outside the Loudon polling place at the fire department in the center of town on Tuesday, January 23, 2024.

Perry and Anita Wise outside the Loudon polling place at the fire department in the center of town on Tuesday, January 23, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 01-23-2024 10:18 PM

Modified: 01-24-2024 4:34 PM


There was no question who Chris Shaw would be voting for when he pulled up the leg of his pants. On his left calf, former President Donald Trump’s face is front and center – tattooed in black ink with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

The 26-year-old Pittsfield resident voted Tuesday for Trump for a third time, showing off his tattoo to fellow supporters as he entered the polls. With or without the ink on his leg, though, it was never a question of who he was backing in this race.

“I got the Trump tattoo before COVID,” he said.

And in the aftermath of the pandemic, he added a new face to his shin – Dr. Anthony Fauci, with devil horns.

In Pittsfield and Loudon – two towns that turned out with nearly 60% of the vote in favor of Trump in 2020 – enthusiasm for the former president remains strong.

For some voters, deviating from Trump was never a question with paraphernalia, policy pitches and a strong personal purpose rooted in supporting his campaign. And for others, the more they learned about former South Carolina governor and ex-UN ambassador Nikki Haley – and her campaign funding – the more they stayed loyal to their roots.

‘He’s the man’

With a large blue and red sign leaned up against the back of his open trunk, Clayton Wood, 70, staked his spot in the parking lot outside the Pittsfield Middle High School. He arrived shortly after 8 a.m. and planned to stay late in the afternoon – packing up in time to hit the road to Nashua, in hopes of attending Trump’s campaign watch party that night.

Standing at the polls means a few things for Wood. At its surface, it’s a chance to support Trump. But at a deeper level, it’s paying homage to a politician who he feels wrote the script for his own political involvement.

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On the day after the 2020 election, Wood vowed to become more involved in state elections. He’d always cast a vote in primary and general races. But that was no longer enough, he said.

He put his hat in the race to run to represent his district in the State House. And now from the parking lot, he waved to the constituents he now represents.

“I joined the local Republican Party to try to figure out what is going on and I didn’t like what I saw,” he said. “I saw a handful of people that are conservative and I saw a group of Republicans that could go either way, so I decided to run. I decided to finally do something.”

His continued support for Trump can be summed up on a small business card-sized handout he gave to voters as they passed his car.

With an image of Trump morphed into the Man on the Mountain, Wood listed his reasoning below – “Seal our border, fight real crime, drill baby drill, restore our country, the right man for the job, Trump!” the card reads.

And presenting the former President as a famed New Hampshire icon is intentional.

“The New Hampshire way is MAGA. What MAGA is, is we put people first. There’s nothing magical about it,” he said. “It’s not about making America great again at the expense of everybody, it’s about making everybody better.”

Terese Bastarache would agree.

“I truly believe everyone should have the freedom to live free or die,” she said. “If we could all just come together, I think we could do great things and I pray… I pray that we can figure this out.”

For her that comes in her unwavering support for Trump. Standing outside the polls in her hometown of Loudon, Bastarache, 50, passed out bumper stickers for the former president and wallet-sized voting cards, reminding town residents of the five elections this year – Tuesday’s primary, school budget, town meeting, state primary and the general election.

But regardless of the candidate, Bastarache sees commonality between her mission and that of the “Write-in Biden” supporters across the parking lot – she adopted two boys, who are 7 and 8 years old from DCYF. They’re now her motivation.

“I’m not giving up on their future now and I think that resonates with people across party lines,” she said. “We all just want to go to work, make an honest living, be able to pay our bills.”

For Dick Tasker, 37, in Pittsfield, voting for Trump for a third time can be summed up in three words.

“He’s the man,” he said.

Haley never a consideration

From day one of her campaign, Haley lost the support of Anita and Perry Wise of Loudon.

In 2021, Haley said that she would not challenge her former boss in a 2024 matchup if he decided to run again. Then on Feb. 14, 2023 she doubled back on that statement and announced her candidacy – the first challenger to do so.

From the get-go, the Wises were out.

“To me, don’t fib, don’t lie. I got no use for you. If you can’t tell me the truth I have no use for you at all,” said Perry, 67.

To them, Trump has a proven record of strengthening the country. They now think of their two children, who are in their late 20s and early 30s, trying to save and build a life of their own.

During a town hall in Iowa last March, Haley discussed raising the retirement age for younger generations to match life expectancy, as a way to curb spending in the country.

In an advertisement unveiled earlier this month – Trump’s campaign capitalized on this comment, telling voters that Haley would threaten their retirement benefits.

Now, the Wises fear that will be the case for their kids’ generation.

“At their age, it’s time to put money aside but if there’s no money to put aside, you have an issue,” said Perry.

At 74-years-old, Kendall Cote feared the same, as he pushed his wife in a wheelchair into the Pittsfield polling location to vote for Trump.

“She wants people to not get Social Security until they’re my age,” he said. “Imagine that.”

To him, her policy proposal is rooted in decisions based on money – a theme of Haley’s campaign he detests.

“Think of all the money they’re saving. That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “And she’s for the people? Who is fooling who?”