Sitting in their living room in McCandless, Bob and Dena Masterino struggled to answer what is usually a fairly easy question: who are you voting for?
“I know who I’m not going to vote for,” Bob said, “but I don’t know who I’m going to vote for.”
The Masterinos, who have been married for 18 years and consider themselves steadfast Republicans, know they won’t vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — but they’re also not ready to commit to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“I need to know that when I… click the voting button, that I’m doing something that’s consistent with what I believe — and that’s why I’m considering not voting,” said Dena.
Bob, 45, has lived in the North Hills his entire life. He handles reimbursements for a health care provider. Dena, 46, grew up in Murrsyville, and now manages a virtual radiology practice from home.
In the evenings and on the weekends, you can often find them performing Christian music at churches and nonprofits in the region. They describe themselves as fiscal conservatives who support limited government.
During the GOP primary, Bob was a Ben Carson supporter; after Carson suspended his campaign before the Pennsylvania primary, Bob voted for Trump.
“I’m not so sure that was the best decision,” he said; Bob shook his head and laughed. “Hindsight is 20/20 and (Trump) just… every time he opens his mouth he inserts the other foot.”
Dena also voted for Trump, but said it was painful.
“I don’t know. Maybe it was an immersion therapy, I thought, ‘Okay, maybe if I do it this time it should be easier if I have to do it again. Not so.”
The couple fears that Trump does not know enough about foreign affairs and that he might be too volatile for the Oval Office.
But at the same time, the Masterinos don’t feel comfortable voting for Clinton.
“I just feel she can’t be trusted,” said Bob.
He's also worried about her tax proposals and her general approach to the economy.
The presidential race led Dena to soul searching.
“I’ve been trying to get underneath what it is I actually believe,” she said. “Because I don’t know if I am a Republican. I mean, you have to check some box, but what if that’s not what I am? What if what I am doesn’t have a box anymore?”
Dena has been talking to friends on Facebook and in the neighborhood. She said it is has been helpful in trying to figure out what it is that she believes deep down inside.
“I suspect that a lot of people are not really honest with themselves about what is their priority when they are voting,” she said. “Maybe this is the first time, as an adult, I’ve had to think about what I really believe when it comes to politics.”
Despite their lack of enthusiasm with their choices, the Masterinos say they probably will head to the polls November 8. Dena said she might consider voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Bob likes some of Johnson’s ideas, but said he's worried that voting for a third-party candidate is the same as voting for Clinton.
So they move forward, trying to look at the upside.
Dena said it’s nice to see more people talking about their beliefs and maybe even questioning them. They try to put it all in perspective.
“I think we all need to keep in mind that neither of these candidates is going to fix what’s wrong with the United States of America,” Bob said. “It’s going to take something way beyond any human being and obviously, for me, that’s God…”
Dena jumped in to finish his thought: “It’s not the rest of my natural life... No matter who gets in, we have a choice in four years. Is it working or not working? And that (choice) is definitely a good thing.”
This is the first in a five-part series exploring how Pittsburgh-area families experience the debates and dramas of the 2016 election.