WESTPORT, Conn. — For the third presidential debate, Westport voters had a chance to get in on the act and have their say on the candidates as they met up at a viewing party Wednesday evening.
After the contentious televised debate, author and journalist Eric Burns moderated a discussion at the event, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westport and the Westport Library.
"As you know, several people left during the debate," Burns said of those who left the library early. "I guess that was their way of casting a vote."
Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton replied to questions on the Supreme Court; the Second Amendment; abortion; immigration; the economy; Trump's remarks about women; the Clinton Foundation; whether each would abide by the election results if they lost; foreign hot spots; and the national debt.
During the debate, occasional chuckles were heard from the local audience, as the candidates took turns, or sometimes overlapped, zinging each other. Reactions were most pronounced later, as the candidates moved away from answering questions from moderator Chris Wallace and leaned more heavily on their talking points.
At the end, Burns opened things up for questions and comments from the library audience.
A man identifying himself as being of low income said he planned to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. He decried the amount of money that goes into the presidential campaign and said the sad part is that this is the best we can do.
"Donald Trump would be a good president if he would just keep his mouth shut!" the man said, to a burst of laughter from the audience.
The next commentator from the audience said that both candidates deflected when answering key questions. He said it was up to Wallace to push the candidates to actually answer the questions instead of allowing them to regurgitate talking points.
"In Chris's defense," Burns said, "you can't get politicians on point, you can only get them on bullet points. The first 20 minutes or so they were answering the questions. Then suddenly, they were all repetitious."
Burns asked for a show of hands from those who are disappointed in the choices they have for president. Most raised their hands.
"But it's a false choice," said one man in the crowd. He slammed the press, saying they had not one mention of third party candidates.
Someone else complained that the media completely shuts out any third party, so most voters don't have the opportunity to look at information from other candidates.
"That's why you get these two clowns," he said.
Another audience member interjected, "At least they’re both sociopaths."
Sheila Ward, president of the League of Women Voters of Westport, quickly noted that the League of Women Voters will have a voters' guide available soon and it will include Stein.
Burns addressed a question on whether Wallace should have calmed down the candidates and ended the raised voices and talking over each other.
"The only way he could've done it was by saying something that would make him the story of the debate by showing bias based on who he first chose to get tough on," Burns said. "I was very disappointed with repetitiousness within this debate and drawing from the other debates."
Another audience member listed Henry Cabot Lodge and George McGovern as examples of great Americans who couldn't get elected president. "It's a problem, " he said.
"I'd like to know, did either candidate get more votes from tonight," one woman asked. At that point, Burns asked how many people thought Trump had gained votes from his performance. Three people raised their hands. When he asked the same question about Clinton, one person raised a hand.
"The most important thing right now is to get people to go out and vote," said a woman near the back of the room.
As people filtered out into the night, Ward expressed her satisfaction with the evening. "It was a good crowd. We had a diverse range of views in the group," she said. "There's not a lot of places we can share viewpoints like this."
The League of Women Voters of Westport will present a debate for those running for the state legislature Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Westport Town Hall. Co-sponsored by the PTA Council of Westport, Y's Women, and the Westport Young Woman's League, the event will be televised live on Cablevision's channel 79 and Frontier's channel 99.
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