WAYNE BUCCINI has always been a Democrat, but he hasn’t always been a reliable voter. In 2010, when Scott Brown and Martha Coakley competed in their high-profile special election for Edward Kennedy’s US Senate seat, Buccini sat it out. “I wasn’t even paying attention last time,” he says.
He’s paying attention now. After nearly two difficult years of unemployment, he is following this year’s Senate contest between Brown and Elizabeth Warren, listening for who has the most sound ideas on the economy, tax equity, and the role of government. He says he is leaning toward Warren but remains undecided.
Buccini is just the kind of voter Warren will need to win. With polls indicating that Brown is leading among independents and even drawing support from Democrats, Warren needs the party faithful to stick with her on Election Day. She especially needs itinerant Democratic voters like Buccini to show up and remain true to his party.
Born and raised in Revere, where he still lives, Buccini has spent most of his life in the Boston area. He worked as a paralegal and then got into the insurance business. He was a commercial claims adjuster with Liberty Mutual until he was laid off. It’s been tough going ever since. He has sent out more than 200 resumes, he says, and received just two responses. The unemployment checks have long since run out. His savings are dwindling. He’s broadened his job search to carwashes and supermarkets. “I haven’t gotten to fast food,” he says. “But I’m right about there.”
The experience has colored his political opinions. He says he used to be disdainful of people who needed public benefits such as unemployment and food stamps. “I looked down on it a little bit,” says Buccini, who is single. “Now that I’ve become unemployed, I understand how those benefits helped.”
His current predicament amplifies his frustration at how the wealthy often pay a lower tax rate than everyone else. “I pay 25 percent of my salary to taxes,” Buccini says. “I don’t believe it works the same way for the rich.” He singles out Mitt Romney, who has said he’s paid no less than 13 percent in federal income taxes over the past decade, because much of it has been taxed at low capital gains rates.
So Warren’s advocacy for the middle class resonates with Buccini. He believes she would be more of a champion for people like him than Brown is. “She’s hitting the right spots for me,” he says. And he likes Warren’s tough line against Wall Street, which he feels got off easy following the mortgage meltdown that began four years ago. “Those guys — they’re untouchable,” he says.
“Brown looks like a good guy and sounds like a good guy, but he’s not hitting the right issues,” Buccini says, adding that he is worried about Republican calls for paring down government. Buccini, who plans to vote for President Obama, also believes Warren is a stronger voice for abortion rights, which is important to him.
He remains open to Brown, though. He appreciates how Brown has, at times, broken from the Republican Party, which Buccini says has moved too far to the right. “I’d say he is definitely not an extremist,” Buccini says. “[He is] what a Republican used to be 10 years ago.”
Buccini is eager to see Warren and Brown debate, which he says will be key to his final decision. “That,” he says, “will be the swinging point for me.”