Woodstock, NY---In America's most famous little town, still populated by pot smokers, pool players, grey-haired hippies, and successful writers, artists and musicians, the Obama factor is weighing in heavily despite Senator Hillary Clinton's expected win here.
Henry Neimark said, "Anyone is better than any Republican and the last eight years we've been through. We've got two great candidates. Both are wonderful, smart, and visionary. Both will bring change. The question is who is most electable?"
"So, who do you think is the most electable?"
Neimark admitted he didn't know which candidate he would vote for until he walked into the voting booth located on the main drag of Tinker Street at the Town Hall, surrounded by tie-dye T-shirt shops, expensive clothing shops, upscale restaurants, and charming Victorian houses painted purple and yellow.
"I think Barack Obama is the transcendent candidate," said Neimark.
"I knew who I was going to vote for two weeks ago," said Neimark's wife, Jency Elliott.
"We need a new name - Barack Obama - who can bring out young people. He can make a huge difference with young people and we've seen that happen," said Elliott.
Elliot said she'd been calling her adult children and friends to remind them to vote then added, "Actually, all of our friends are clued into politics and everyone we know is voting today."Woodstock remains an alternative community with a progressive political reputation that stretches back to the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Even if the festival wasn't held in Woodstock, but in neighboring Bethel, this is the town that launched
and where Bob Dylan lived in a house christened, "Big Pink."
Standing before a 1965 Dylan poster, artist Sweet Bryar and her husband, musician and metallurgist, Robin Ludwig cast their ballots today saying they are most concerned over issues of education, getting out of the Iraq, and taxes.
"I voted for Dennis Kucinich even if he isn't running. My second choice is Obama and then Hillary Clinton, but I've got some problems with Hillary," said Bryar.
After being on the campaign trail for nine months and returning to my own community to vote and take the pulse of my neighbors and friends in these snow-covered Catskill Mountains, what struck me first was the lack of Clinton-for-Change signs. I didn't see one from the southern part of Ulster County to Woodstock and beyond as I drove around chatting with local Democrats. The only signs visible were Barack Hope signs and few Ron Paul signs.
This county was a Republican stronghold until the last several years when Democratic registered voters took over the majority, though the ever-popular and long-serving Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey was an exception. He endorsed Mrs. Clinton, but there were more Obama supporters here than I expected.
In the small town of Hurley, about ten minutes from Woodstock, I spoke with Elizabeth G., a 60-something landscaper and artist, who only two days ago was released from the hospital after major surgery.
"I'm getting dressed and my sister is driving me down the mountain to vote for Obama," said Elizabeth. "I'm not a Hillary fan. We need a change."
On the same foggy mountain, one of George's neighbors - a famous photographer who talked me into joining her on dangerous 6-week adventure sailing in the Southern Ocean to chronicle 90% of the Antarctic wildlife procreating - drove down the slippery winding road to cast her ballot for the candidate she has made small contributions to since last summer: Barack Obama.
Another friend who owns an art gallery said, "I'd vote for either Barack or Hillary and I just haven't made up my mind. I won't probably do it until I go into the voting booth." She didn't want her name in print. She still has some Republican customers though "not many."
Clinton still has a majority of the supporters in upstate New York, as one might imagine in the state she represents in the U.S. Senate, but they tend to be older and more main stream. However, the Barack revolution has caught hold here and he may do much better than expected in New York.
"Too bad there was a big parade down in New York City," said one Democratic activist working the polls today as a volunteer. "I heard the Super Bowl fans are going to be partying rather than voting."
Well, not in Ulster County.
The voters came out in droves today, despite the cold, pea-soup weather.
Hillary will take the state but Barack will take his bite out of her support here, too.
That's the news from Woodstock, a day camp for adults who take their politics and their partying very seriously. That's why I live here.