Donna Cumella, 56, has been registered as an independent all her adult life. But this year, as the first woman in U.S. history accepted the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, Cumella switched her affiliation to Republican.
"Listen, as a woman, I would like nothing more than for a woman to be president," Cumella said. "But she's the wrong woman."
The gender divide in the 2016 election is undisputed. Many women won't support Donald Trump after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were leveled against him, and his comments toward women have been described as misogynistic. White males without college degrees are often cited as Trump's main supporting demographic, but some women say they are backing the Republican nominee — even as they have found themselves the subject of harsh criticism for doing so.
A #WomenForTrump Twitter hashtag last month brought a deluge of Trump denouncers expressing disgust at the women for sticking by him. A Survey Monkey poll released Friday showed that if only women voted Nov. 8, Clinton would receive 438 electoral votes to Trump's meager 62. The gender gap may be shrinking, though, with a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Sunday showing Clinton's lead with women at 47 percent to Trump's 41 percent.
In New York state, where Clinton served as the first woman senator and where voters will most certainly back her Tuesday, some, like Trish Bergin, a Republican councilwoman for the town of Islip, and Toni Tepe, the chair of the Huntington Republican Committee, have stood by Trump through all his controversies.
More than a dozen women have come forward with sexual assault allegations against Trump, who is known for calling women fat and ranking their value based on their looks. In October, a recording of him discussing how, because of his celebrity, he could grab women by their genitalia, made international headlines.
None of those comments or allegations had much influence on Cumella, Tepe or Bergin's outlook on the candidate — in part, they said, because other issues are more important, but also because they're uncertain whether the sexual assault allegations are true.
The three women are connected through their work for Long Island's Republican organizations. Bergin and Tepe both serve as elected officials in Suffolk County, while Cumella previously ran for legislator of the fifth district and now volunteers at the Huntington Republican Committee. The area where they live and work, Suffolk County, tends to lean Republican, whereas the other part of Long Island, Nassau County, leans Democratic.
"I interviewed Donald Trump three times in my career and he was never inappropriate," said Bergin, 45, who worked as a news anchor for CBS News and News 12. As for the 2005 tape of Trump chatting with former "Today" show host Billy Bush, Bergin thinks it should never have been released.
"Quite often, when we're putting mics on and preparing for the show, there's banter back and forth, but it's never meant for broadcast television," Bergin said.
Bergin cited Trump's stances on national security, immigration and the economy as her motivation for supporting him.
"The safety of my family, certainly, is the most important thing to me," said Bergin. "The economy is also the second most important thing to me. I think Donald Trump delivers on both of those issues." She is married to an environmental lawyer; they have three sons.
Bergin likes what Trump has said about defeating terrorism. Illegal immigration also weighs heavily on her mind, especially after a string of murders in a town near where she is raising her sons. Five bodies have been found since early September in Brentwood, Long Island, prompting the arrest of more than 30 members of the gang MS-13, which has roots in El Salvador and Los Angeles. The legal status of the suspects involved is unknown.
As the daughter of Irish immigrants, Bergin said she believes in the importance of immigrants and thinks they should have access to jobs and opportunities if they come to the country legally.
"I don't think Donald Trump is anti-immigration," she said. "I think he's pro-America."
All three women listed Clinton's use of a private server while secretary of state as a strike against her.
"The only reason why you acid wash a hard drive is because you don't want anyone to find out what's on it. Bottom line," said Cumella, who works for the Suffolk Country government as an information technology project manager. "If you have nothing to hide, then you turn over those emails."
Cumella dislikes the characterization of Trump supporters as uneducated. She holds four degrees including a Masters in public policy.
"I consider myself quite educated," she said.
Cumella has spent time volunteering for the Trump campaign in Port Jefferson, New York, where she lives. She says she has been asked by some women why she continues to support the candidate, but feels that once she explains her reasons, her listeners are less judgmental. Her son, 23, and daughter, 21, agreed with her decision.
"What I've seen when I've helped the campaign at supermarkets or over the phone, wherever, is that when you ask people if they want to sign up for Trump, they say, 'Well, I'm going to vote for him, I just don't want to sign it,'" she said. For that reason, she believes more women are going to vote for him than the current polls suggest, a nod to Trump's oft-cited "silent majority."
Tepe, the chairman of the Huntington Republican Committee, is drawn to Trump's economic platform and his promises to bring jobs back to the U.S. Tepe, who is 72, has been in politics since joining the New York State Assembly in 1979 and said she has witnessed an increase in the number of women asking to volunteer at the committee since Trump accepted the nomination.
"When you look at the direction this country is going in, we're moving in the direction of a socialist country," she said. "We're going to have the very wealthy and the very poor. The middle class is going to be dissolved."
None of the women is affected by the chance to make history by voting for the first female presidential nominee of a major party.
"We all stand on our own principles and our own credibility," Tepe said of herself and her fellow female elected officials. "None of us has ever used the woman's card to get elected."