When Kerry Calls, an Ohio Street Divides
Steve Klaas was watering his flowerbed when the chaos of a presidential campaign invaded his quiet Park Ridge street.
The 39-year-old dietary manager put a dark blue Bush-Cheney sign in the window of his modest ranch-style house two days ago when he heard that Democratic candidate John F. Kerry would be descending on his neighborhood northeast of downtown Sunday afternoon.
“I like Bush,” Klaas said flatly. “Christian values.”
Kerry’s visit to this corner of Ward 62, a tract of Columbus that President Bush won by just 12 votes in 2000, prompted a spate of partisan jousting along Glenshaw Avenue that was as remarkable for its relative civility as for the even division of the neighborhood.
As Kerry’s aides prepared for his visit to the home of Janet and Jessie “Bob” Aikens, Bush volunteers handed out T-shirts and signs to their neighbors. Nearly every house had a lawn placard touting one candidate or the other.
“Isn’t this a great country?” asked Peter Bricker, a 43-year-old aircraft mechanic, clad in a Bush-Cheney T-shirt. “This is America.... We can have Bush living next to Kerry, and we get along great.”
In a state that Bush won by 3.5% in 2000, the Park Ridge subdivision exemplifies the partisan split that defines the 2004 race.
“It is this neighborhood that will decide how the nation’s going to go,” said Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman.
Kay Taylor, a Kerry supporter who lives in the adjacent neighborhood of Worthington, said her street was equally divided.
“The people who are strong Bush supporters believe there are weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, regardless of what it says in the newspaper,” said Taylor, who came to hear Kerry speak. “People are just really entrenched in their camps.”
The amiable tone of the local residents was overtaken by volunteers for both campaigns, who lined up along Glenshaw Avenue in anticipation of Kerry’s arrival. About 30 Bush supporters were chanting “Four more years!” while several dozen Kerry backers shouted “President! Kerry!”
When Kerry arrived in his motorcade and walked over the sidewalk to shake hands, the two camps merged, Bush signs bumping up against Kerry signs, the Democratic supporters’ cheers mingling with shouts of “Flip-flop Kerry!”
The chants continued as the Massachusetts senator walked across the street to the Aikens house, where he addressed about 70 people sitting on folding chairs and picnic tables.
“I want to thank all the neighbors, including neighbors who don’t support me at this point in time or may not support me at all,” he said. “I understand that.... I’m proud to hear the voices of democracy. Sometimes they’re a little loud, but that’s democracy. And we welcome that, we welcome that.”
After several more minutes of chanting, the din finally quieted.