Michael Lewin did not expect John Kasich to win the Pennsylvania Republican primary Tuesday, but he cast his vote for the governor from Ohio nevertheless.
“I thought he was more qualified, more of a human being” than the other Republican presidential nominees, Lewin said outside Maxon Towers on Forbes Avenue, the polling location where the Jewish Squirrel Hill resident voted. “I thought to myself, ‘Who do you want to tell your imaginary future grandchildren you voted for?’ I didn’t want to say I voted for [Donald] Trump to stop [Ted] Cruz, or I voted for Cruz to stop Trump.”
But, as the pre-primary polls predicted, business mogul Trump was named the winner of the Pennsylvania primary just minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, winning 56.7 percent of the votes and 17 delegates to the Republican National Convention in July. Because the state’s Republican primary differs from others, another 54 delegates — elected by GOP primary voters in each of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts — are not bound to vote for any particular candidate; instead they may exercise their own judgment in selecting a nominee at the convention, to be held in July in Cleveland.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, received 21.6 percent of the votes in Pennsylvania, while Kasich earned 19.4 percent. Trump ultimately won in the other four states that had April 26 primaries: Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware.
“I usually vote for the losers,” said Lewin. “Only once did I vote for someone who won his party’s nomination.”
While Lewin had little confidence that Kasich would topple Trump, he still believes that Kasich would be the strongest Republican challenger against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the general election.
“Kasich would be the most electable in November,” Lewin said. “The polls show that Kasich is way ahead of Hillary, that Cruz is even with her, and that Trump is way behind. A vote for Trump [in the primary] is a vote for Hillary.”
For Lewin, his choice at the polls Tuesday finally came down to “personalities,” he said, although at the beginning of the election cycle he was more focused on the foreign policy positions of the candidates.
“Trump sounds more moderate,” he said. “But it’s a tough balance. The issues pulled me in one direction, and personality in another.”
Voting in the Democratic primary, Dee Jay Oshry was confident that he had aligned himself with the winner when voting for Clinton.
“Bernie Sanders is not electable,” Oshry said, referring to the self-proclaimed democratic socialist who represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate as an independent. “His ideas don’t have any substance behind them.”
Oshry’s husband, Bart Rack, who also voted for Clinton, agreed.
“I think Bernie Sanders’ ideas are noble, but they are not sustainable,” Rack said.
As predicted by earlier polls, Clinton prevailed in Pennsylvania, with 55.6 percent of the vote and picking up 95 delegates. Sanders received 43.6 percent of the votes and 67 delegates. (The Democratic primary system awards delegates to the national convention on a proportional basis.)
Clinton also won in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland. Sanders’ only win of the night was in Rhode Island.
Anita Gordon, voting at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill, cast her ballot for Sanders although she expected a Clinton win.
“I think he gives us hope,” Gordon said of Sanders. “I think in the end, Hillary will win, but this was my opportunity to vote the way I wanted it to be.”
In the battle to pick a challenger to incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, Democrat Katie McGinty beat out Joe Sestak and John Fetterman. Toomey was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Oshry and Rack both cast their ballots for Sestak, believing the retired Navy admiral was best poised to defeat Toomey in the fall, despite the fact that Sestak lost to Toomey in 2010.
“I don’t think there is anything Toomey has done that I approve of,” Oshry said.
Gordon, on the other hand, was backing Braddock’s mayor, the colorful Fetterman, despite the fact that she did not anticipate his winning the primary.
“He’s not going to win,” she said. “But I’ve seen him on a number of occasions. He’s a grassroots person, and he has taken compassion on Braddock. I like him a lot, and I trust him.”
Picking a candidate for the contested Democratic attorney general race was more difficult for Gordon.
“I went back and forth,” she said. “I don’t really know Josh Shapiro.”
Still, after looking at the sheet of suggested candidates she was handed by a Democratic volunteer at the polls, she did end up voting for Shapiro, the Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman.
Shapiro defeated Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. Shapiro will compete with Republican John Rafferty in the November general election.
After casting her vote for Shapiro, Gordon’s decision was reinforced, she said, when she heard Cyril Wecht, former Allegheny County coroner and medical examiner, telling a group of women in the JCC lobby, “Don’t forget to vote for Josh Shapiro.”
Norm Altman, a registered independent, could not vote in the primary, but happened to be walking through the JCC amidst the election activity.
A former Republican, Altman dropped that affiliation several years ago, he said.
“I can’t stand the Republican slate of candidates,” Altman said. “My choices are so limited in either party.”
Looking toward November, and at a likely standoff between Clinton and Trump, he expects he will be voting for Clinton.
“I think she has the experience factor,” he said.
If voting in the Democratic primary, Altman — like so many other voters — would have cast his ballots for senator and attorney general for reasons other than policy.
“I like Sestak only because he, like myself, is a Navy vet,” Altman said. “I’m not sure I could tell you what his policies are. For attorney general, I would have voted for Josh Shapiro because he’s Jewish.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.