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Where Voters Are: Young Caretaker In Washington State

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're here as part of NPR's Where Voters Are project because the southwestern part of Washington state is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans. For one of our interviews, we traveled to Castle Rock in Cowlitz County. It went for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. It used to be a solid blue county back when there were plenty of mining, logging and manufacturing jobs here. Now health care is a big industry here.

Twenty-six-year-old Duayne Royston worked in health care until he had to quit his job to help care for his father, who has dementia. As we pulled up to his house, Duayne came out to greet us.

MARTIN: Hi, it's Michel.

DUAYNE ROYSTON: Hey.

MARTIN: How are you?

ROYSTON: Hello. I'm good. How are you?

MARTIN: Good. Thank you for letting us come by and visit.

ROYSTON: I'm excited - happy to have you guys.

MARTIN: Inside, we sat down in the living room and talked politics. Duayne is a Sanders supporter.

ROYSTON: Bernie is my, like, big choice. I want him so much. But if they do what they did last election, and they force us to split the Democratic vote, I'm going to have to go with Biden just because I know he's going to get him out of office.

MARTIN: And why is that so important to you?

ROYSTON: So full disclosure - I'm transgender. And the first thing Trump did when he got in office was ban trans people from the military. And if a president does something like that the first thing he does in office - gone. He has lost any amount of support he could have possibly gotten from me.

MARTIN: So you think your primary motivation in going to the polls is that you'd like him to be gone.

ROYSTON: Yes.

MARTIN: OK.

ROYSTON: If we get a Democrat in office, I will be happy. I mean, there's Democrats that I don't really care for, but anything is better than this.

MARTIN: And what's the most important issue when you're trying to pick which Democrat that you want?

ROYSTON: I think probably one of my most important issues is health care. I think that's a basic human right. And any Democrat that is vouching for free health care has my vote (laughter).

MARTIN: And Bernie is the one you feel is articulating that...

ROYSTON: Yes.

MARTIN: ...The best, in the best possible - when did he get on your radar? When did you first start to notice him?

ROYSTON: Last election.

MARTIN: Last election - 2016. Was he...

ROYSTON: Yeah.

MARTIN: How did he get your attention?

ROYSTON: He cared about the issues that I care about. And he's a really down-to-earth guy. And that's kind of why Biden is my second choice. So both Bernie and Biden have been where I am. They were working-class citizens at one point, and they care about working-class citizens. And so it really matters to me. Like, that's why I don't like Bloomberg - because he's got so much money. If he tripped over a crack in the street, the money that fell out of his pocket could pay all my debts, and he wouldn't even know that it happened.

MARTIN: Another issue that affects Duayne is student debt. He says he owes a lot of money after taking classes at a community college, but he had to drop out to help take care of his dad at home. He'd like to go back to school to study to become a mortician. But he says he can't afford that.

ROYSTON: I would love to re-enroll. I would be very happy to go back to college, but I just can't afford that. That's a lot of money to pay back (laughter). I have friends in their 40s who are still paying back their college debts from, like, way back when they were 20.

MARTIN: So when some people talk about, like, free college and free health care, they think of it as, like, handing out goodies. But you don't see it that way, clearly.

ROYSTON: No.

MARTIN: It's like...

ROYSTON: If...

MARTIN: ...Handing out free stuff. You don't see it that way at all.

ROYSTON: No.

MARTIN: Describe what that would mean to you - to be able to go to school without having this debt hanging over your head.

ROYSTON: I would be so happy. I would love it if I could go to school. I've considered, like, learning German because I've heard that if you learn German enough, then you can go to Germany and get free school over there. And it's just ridiculous that there are so many Americans that are uneducated, and they don't have access to education because they can't afford it. That's just awful to me. You know, if I only had to add $5 onto my taxes every year, and that would help pay for education, I would be happy to do that.

MARTIN: And what about the health care piece? Tell me more why that - tell me more about why that matters.

ROYSTON: You know, I shouldn't have to have a job to have health care. You know, the people I meet on the street corner - they should have health care. Everybody should. It's not fair that it's based on how much you work or what kind of job you work. It doesn't make any sense to me.

MARTIN: Do you think that your preferred candidate can win in November? Do you think Bernie Sanders can win?

ROYSTON: No.

MARTIN: You don't.

ROYSTON: I don't.

MARTIN: Why not?

ROYSTON: Because he - as much as I love him - and he will be my vote for the primaries, I don't think he can win over Biden now because now Biden has Bloomberg and all of his money behind him. And unfortunately, that, you know, kind of makes you a better candidate.

MARTIN: Twenty-six-year-old Duayne Royston, one of the young voters we spoke with this past week in southwestern Washington state. Later in the program, we'll hear from students at a local community college here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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