Interstate 10: What Drives Voters?

In the second part of our series, four people in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas discuss issues important to them in 2008. The four all live and work along Interstate 10, which runs across Southern California to Florida.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne, with Steve Inskeep.

And voters help us ring in the new year today. We're talking to people living and working along Interstate 10 - or The 10, as it's known here on the West Coast. Steve continues our journey.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

So we've got the map in front of us again - a yellow line going across the country from Santa Monica California all the way to the East Coast of Florida. We've made it so far into Arizona, and that's where we found Lou Ann Huskison(ph) in Peoria, Arizona.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. LOU ANN HUSKISON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Why's it called Peoria?

Ms. HUSKISON: Some of the settlers actually did come from Peoria, Illinois, and for some weird reason, they just named it Peoria.

INSKEEP: And let's introduce the second person here, and then we'll begin our conversation. Rocky McDonald is in Hachita, New Mexico. Am I - Hachita, am I pronouncing that correctly?

Mr. ROCKY McDONALD: Hachita, yes, sir. Hachita's actually an old mining camp.

INSKEEP: What do you do for a living?

Mr. McDONALD: I ride bulls, actually, and I've got a ranch here in Hachita.

INSKEEP: You ride bulls?

Mr. McDONALD: Yes, sir.

INSKEEP: When they open the gate at the rodeo and the bull comes storming out, you're the guy on the bull.

Mr. McDONALD: Yes, sir.

INSKEEP: Lou Ann Huskison, what kind of a place is Peoria? It looks from the map like you're outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

Ms. HUSKISON: Yes. It's a suburb of Phoenix along with Glendale, Mesa, Chandler - we just surround Phoenix.

INSKEEP: And what do you do there?

Ms. HUSKISON: I have several jobs. I do volunteer works for veterans groups, and I also work for the U.S. Post Office.

INSKEEP: I guess we actually found you at a VFW today.

Ms. HUSKISON: Yes, you did.

INSKEEP: Well, now as you think about life in Peoria, Arizona and what's going on in your community or in the country, what's on your mind?

Ms. HUSKISON: I feel we're just not doing enough for the veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They're having lots of different problems, and they just don't go to the people that they're supposed to go to. You know, we've got plenty of people out there to help them. We need them to contact us so that we can help them and get them to the right people.

INSKEEP: You have conversations with Iraq veterans from time to time, and they say, I'm okay.

Ms. HUSKISON: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Do you have family in the military?

Ms. HUSKISON: I had family in the military. My father was in the Air Force and my brother was in the Army, and my husband was in the Navy, and I was in the Navy.

INSKEEP: You were in the Navy. When were you in the Navy?

Ms. HUSKISON: I was in the Navy in '74 through '76.

INSKEEP: Now before we turn to Rocky McDonald and some of other guests here, I just want to mention you're in the state of Arizona, and one of your senators is running president - John McCain.

Ms. HUSKISON: Yes.

INSKEEP: What do you think of McCain or any of the other candidates?

Ms. HUSKISON: Sometimes I wonder. They say they're going to do something and then other people come back and say, well, wait a minute. I just don't know who to trust anymore.

INSKEEP: Do you remember who you voted for the last couple of elections?

Ms. HUSKISON: Yes. George Bush.

INSKEEP: Well, Rocky McDonald in Hachita, New Mexico, did you vote for President Bush in 2004?

Mr. McDONALD: Yes, sir. I sure did.

INSKEEP: And do you still support him?

Mr. McDONALD: I do.

INSKEEP: Now as I look on the map here of Interstate 10 across the country, I see that Hachita is a little south of Interstate 10, and it would be hard to get much further south without being in Mexico.

Mr. McDONALD: It is. I believe my house is about five miles off the Mexican border.

INSKEEP: Is immigration a big deal where you are?

Mr. McDONALD: It is. Everything here on the news, it's right down where we live. I got a ranch down there, and at times would - you'll see a few of them walking across or trying to get across.

INSKEEP: Does this issue concern you?

Mr. McDONALD: You know, it's pretty tough for me. I mean, everyone should come across legal. But, I mean, living down there by the border, you got to realize those people are coming across. They have nothing to lose.

INSKEEP: Rocky McDonald is in Hachita, New Mexico. Lou Ann Huskison is in Peoria, Arizona, still with us. And let's bring another voice into the conversation. Regina Blankenship is in Deming, New Mexico.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. REGINA BLANKENSHIP: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And you're a little bit to the northeast of Hachita. What's in Deming?

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: Deming is a community, pretty much farming right now. Growing the chili and just about anything that'll grow in the soil down here.

INSKEEP: Well, now, we were just talking about immigrants. Are there a lot of immigrant workers who work those other crops?

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: Sure. There's a lot of immigrant workers here. It's pretty positive. The community supports people that come in and want to work. The negative stuff is the amount of drug trafficking that happens.

INSKEEP: What are the drugs?

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: Right now, we're having a big issue with meth.

INSKEEP: Oh, methamphetamines.

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: But I believe that they're coming across with just about anything you can think of. We just - our proximity to the border is what brings that through, I'm sure.

INSKEEP: And I hate to mention, you've also got an interstate there, which means you get across the border, you get on that interstate, you can go straight to Los Angeles. You can go straight to El Paso, where we're going next.

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: And let's just bring in another voice from El Paso, Texas. Mike Tisdale(ph) in El Paso, Texas.

Welcome to the program, sir.

Mr. MIKE TISDALE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: What do you do for a living in El Paso?

Mr. TISTLE: I'm the family ministries pastor at First Baptist Church.

INSKEEP: And you're right there on the Rio Grande River.

Mr. TISTLE: We are.

INSKEEP: Looking across at Mexico.

Mr. TISTLE: Exactly.

INSKEEP: You've heard some folks mention some other concerns ranging from the war to immigration to drug trafficking. Any of those issues on your mind in El Paso?

Mr. TISTLE: Of course, the immigration issue. We have a sister city right here on the border.

INSKEEP: Ciudad Juarez?

Mr. TISTLE: Yes.

INSKEEP: I'm just looking at the map here.

Mr. TISTLE: Over three million people in this area. I'm a bike rider. I go out into New Mexico up to towards Los Cruces. And a lot of times, you know, we see the border, and all it is is nothing but, you know, a barbed wire. There is no fence. And I think that's something that is a concern here.

INSKEEP: Are there other big national issues that seem to make themselves felt in that large metropolitan area?

Mr. TISTLE: Well, of course, we have Fort Bliss here, which we're expecting 30,000 troops over the next five years, coming in. So the military is a huge portion of the El Paso economy and community.

INSKEEP: And the war in Iraq or the war the Afghanistan, are they felt directly there?

Mr. TISTLE: Absolutely. I just was at Cracker Barrel yesterday and saw one of the main man in the 401 Brigade that just flew in an evening before about midnight, and they were having breakfast together as a family for the first time in around 15 months. And we've lost around 32, 33 men in the last 15 months. So we are trying to do support groups for our troops, to help them get back into civilian life here in the United States when they get back.

INSKEEP: Can I just mention that, as we listen to some of your stories, I hear you mentioning concerns that many of you are dealing with largely on your own. Lou Ann Huskison, you were there are the VFW trying to provide help to veterans.

Mike Tisdale in El Paso, you're talking about people reaching out in the community. There seems to be a lot of inclination for people to try to tackle problems on their own in this group.

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: Well, this is Regina. I think that's kind of a trend in our society right now. Individuals are more important than the whole.

INSKEEP: Sounds like you think there's a little too much individualism out there.

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: I think there's a little too much. I think we still - I mean, there's a lot of people that feel like our country is important. But we can't seem to pull it all together and make a difference as a group when we have so many folks that are thinking, well, yeah, maybe the environment is important, but for right now I want to have that big vehicle, that big home. You know, I want have it all.

INSKEEP: Rocky McDonald, I'm sure there's no individualism at all in the bull riding business, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McDONALD: If I do good, I can blame it on myself. And if I do bad, I can blame it on myself as well. You know, I, definitely, you know, which president get elected, it's going to affect everybody's life and how it goes. No matter who it is, you've got to back him, whether you like it or not. And I think that's one of the things that people from the country don't do.

INSKEEP: Has anybody on the line here - in this stretch of Interstate 10 from near Phoenix all the way to El Paso, Texas - anybody on the line here feel excited about any of their choices at this early stage in the presidential campaign?

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: No.

Ms. HUSKISON: No.

INSKEEP: I heard two no's and two rounds of deafening silence.

Well, in that cheerful note…

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: …thank you all. I've enjoyed learning what's - a little bit of what's going on in your communities.

Ms. BLANKENSHIP: No problem.

Ms. HUSKISON: Thank you.

Mr. McDONALD: It's good to be here.

Mr. TISTLE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And we're going to continue this journey on Interstate 10 tomorrow going right across the State of Texas, which will take forever, and then getting into Louisiana.

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