On the last nail-biter day of a presidential race that drew huge voter turnouts across the country, the quiet suburb of Belmont found itself squarely in the spotlight, thanks to one very famous resident.
On Tuesday morning, the Beech Street Center – usually a quiet oasis for senior citizens who want to quilt or play board games – hummed with secret service, extra police and sign-toting residents outside as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney cast his vote in the town he has called home since 1971.
“You’re going to win, Mitt!” someone in the crowd shouted, as Romney and his wife, Ann, left in a motorcade for a final day of campaigning.
As Belmont’s results came in Tuesday night, however, Romney proved not to be a favorite son. President Obama won 65 percent of the vote in Belmont, compared with Romney’s 34 percent, according to unofficial results. The election brought out 79 percent of the town’s 17,822 voters.
But supporters and nonsupporters alike agreed that it has been one heck of a campaign season for the town of 25,000 outside Boston.
“How many times do you have somebody from your hometown running for president?” asked Chris Doyle on Tuesday afternoon, standing outside of Town Hall where she was serving as a poll watcher. Doyle avoided the hoopla at the Beech Street Center, where she usually votes, by casting an absentee ballot for Obama on Friday.
“I think everyone’s just happy to have the election over,” she said.
The spotlight trained on Romney, she said, has spilled over onto the town itself, though she wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing. The Belmont she sees on the news, she said, doesn’t match the town she’s lived in since 2003.
“I think they’re looking to portray Romney in a certain light,” she said, and in pursuit of that image, the press has painted Belmont as a more exclusive place than it really is.
“I don’t know what kind of light it shines on Belmont,” said William Sullivan, 32, as he left Town Hall after voting for Obama. “It’s such a Democratic town.”
Belmont has not voted Republican in a presidential race since 1980. While Belmont residents threw their support to Romney when he ran for governor in 2002, they supported Kennedy in the 1994 Senate race.
But while some in Belmont have grown weary of the attention, at least one resident said she wanted to see more media walking the streets of Belmont.
Evelyn Cunningham, who has lived in Belmont for 50 years, said she thought Romney hasn’t gotten enough good coverage in Belmont. Elephants marched across Cunningham’s sweater, where she had pinned Romney/Ryan buttons.
Casting her vote for her hometown candidate, she said, was a gratifying moment.
“I think he’s a source of pride to us,” she said. “He’s a man that will bring honor to us, because of his intelligence and his patriotism.”
At the Beech Street Center on Tuesday morning, Romney supporters made a strong showing.
A cheer went up outside the center as the Romneys left after casting their ballots. The crowd of about 200, many hoisting homemade Romney signs, broke into applause and hoots.
Asked by reporters inside the polling place whom he voted for, Romney answered, “I think you know.”
Bill Dunham, a member of the Belmont Republican Town Committee, caught a glimpse of Romney giving “a nice wave” through his car windows. Dunham, 62, stood by a banner that read, “Belmont votes for Mitt and Ann,” which, he said, was meant to welcome them home to the community they’ve lived in for more than 40 years.
“They have a political side and a business side, but they’re part of the community.”
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.