Voters from a Republican-packed Collier County trickled to the polls Monday with one goal: change.
“We’re on a downward slope,” said Nik Whiteley of the country’s direction under President Barack Obama. “We need to change the way this country is run.”
The North Naples resident was one of more than 1,000 people to vote on the first day of early voting in Collier County.
Many of those walking out of the Orange Blossom Library early voting site said this presidential preference primary was significant to getting the country back on track.
“There’s too much government, too much spending,” Golden Gate resident Larry McDonald said.
McDonald said he voted early “because if you’re going to vote for the big one, this is your chance.”
The anti-Obama sentiment in Collier County should not be a surprise.
In the 2008 presidential election, 60 percent of Collier voters selected Republican nominee John McCain and 38 percent voted for Obama. Collier County has 88,877 registered Republicans and 42,164 registered Democrats.
Until recently, Kate Cashman of Naples was a lifelong Democrat. But she and her son both made the switch to the GOP.
“I’m not happy with the way this country is being run,” she said. “There’s too much government intrusion.”
One North Naples resident said this election is paramount because “we have a socialist in power.”
Roberta Cervelli wants Obama out. She wants Republican Mitt Romney in his seat.
“He’s more knowledgeable; he knows how to run a country,” she said of Romney. “He can restore physical order so that my grandchildren don’t have to pay millions.”
If Romney doesn’t win the Republican nomination, Cervelli said she would be content with any GOP candidate that replaces Obama in office.
Registered Republicans chose from nine candidates: Michele Bachmann, Hermain Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
Michele Bachmann, Hermain Cain and Jon Huntsman withdrew from the race after the ballots were printed. Gary Johnson is now running as a Libertarian candidate for president.
Only registered Republicans could vote in the presidential preference primary.
Linda Erbstein of Naples said she will vote Wednesday. But she won’t be voting for a Republican candidate.
“Since we’re not the party with the choice for the primary, we’ll be voting for local issues,” she said.
Local issues include city of Naples elections and fire district tax issues in Immokalee, Golden Gate and East Naples.
Each of the four candidates running for the three Naples City Council seats have served on the council before.
“It’s repeat, repeat, repeat,” Erbstein said. “It’d be nice to see new, fresh faces.”
Tim Durham of the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office said 20,969 people voted early for the 2008 presidential preference primary.
He said he anticipated fewer people to vote Monday because of the MLK holiday. Typically, he said, the second week of early voting, after the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary, is heavier than the first.
“Folks don’t want to waste their vote,” he said. “They may wait longer to see how the field changes.”
Durham said during the 2008 election many people called the election office asking to change their vote after Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton dropped out of the race.
“Once you vote, there’s no changing it,” he said.
Early voting continues until Jan. 28, excluding Sundays. Each of the seven early voting sites — Supervisor of Elections Office, Golden Gate Library, Library Headquarters, Marco Island Library, Naples City Hall, Immokalee Library, Everglades City Hall — will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.