Austin man, 103, recalls past elections

By Karen Colbenson

When Charles Painter, 103, of Austin, voted for the first time in 1928, he cast a ballot for Republican candidate Herbert Hoover. That was the first and only time Painter would vote for a Republican.

The big issue at that time was prohibition.

"I voted for prohibition because I thought I was voting against evil," said Painter.


Later, Painter said he "realized you can’t legislate morality."

Painter, a retired agricultural teacher who has lived in Austin since 1946, was born and raised in a political family in northern Nebraska. His father served two terms as a state representative in South Dakota and had ties to Hubert Humphrey, the vice president who, from 1965-1969, served under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

"My father knew the Humphreys," said Painter.

Before million dollar campaigns and television ads bombarded the months leading up to an election, people based their votes on newspaper articles about candidates and issues and political conversations with friends and families, according to Painter.

"You supported a party, and voted, and that was it," said Painter.

Although he has never ran for any local or state office himself, Painter has been an active supporter of the DFL party for the majority of his life. The only time Painter can’t remember voting is during his service in the Navy during World War II.

This week, he cast a vote for now presidential-elect Barack Obama. He said he never imagined that in his lifetime he would see a black presidential candidate get elected.

"Not even a chance," said Painter. "But I was pleased (Obama) won. I have no tolerance for (racism)."


Painter said looking back on all of the presidents that he has voted for, Harry Truman, who was elected in 1945, was his favorite.

"He was very honest and did things he was never really given credit for," said Painter. "I felt he was most reliable."

Painter said that is what has probably changed the most in politics over the past 100 years — the reliability of presidential candidates.

"I was not very enthusiastic about the candidates anymore," he said. "But I’m pleased with the results (of this election)."

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