Obama wins Lititz voters share variety of opinions
By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer
President Barack Obama has four more years.
Election Day started at midnight with a 5-5 tie in Dixville Notch, N.H., a big indicator from a tiny town of just how close this presidential election would be. Twenty-three hours later, newsrooms were calling it in favor of Obama, and in the early hours of Nov. 7, Republican challenger Mitt Romney delivered a graceful concession speech, calling on both parties to work together for the betterment of America. A short time later, the President echoed that bipartisan sentiment during his victory speech in Chicago.
Like most of the nation, voter turnout in Lititz for this historic election was exceptionally strong. While the nation and state supported Obama, a majority of local voters favored the former governor of Massachusetts.
Of the 19,922 registered voters in the Warwick School District, 9,563 supported Romney while 5,257 voted for Obama. The closest the President came to winning in any local precinct was at the Lititz Fire Co., where he fell just 11 shy of Romney’s 244.
In other races, while Lititz supported Tom Smith for U.S. Senator, incumbent Bob Casey Jr. won statewide. In state elections, Democrats won big with Kathleen Kane as Attorney General, Eugene DePasquale as Auditor General and Robert McCord as Treasurer. Lititz supported the Republican candidates in each of those elections.
In addition, Joe Pitts was reelected to Congress, Republican Mindy Fee won the 37th District seat, and Republican Steven Mentzer (running unopposed) won the 97th District seat.
Election Day morning in Lititz had an autumn chill in the air, especially noticeable to those who stood in line as early as 6:20 a.m. for polls to open.
Jeremy Hershey was moving at a brisk pace toward the Lititz Fire Co., the borough’s 1st ward-1st precinct voting site. It was 6:50, 10 minutes before go-time. This young Republican, who voted for John McCain in the last presidential election, said he was expecting a close race in 2012.
"Oh man, I’m thinking Obama, and it’s just a gut feeling," he said when asked who he thought would win. "I have a feeling it’s going to be really close."
While Romney would be getting Hershey’s vote, he said both candidates were qualified and noted that the campaigns were divisive.
"Quite honestly, it’s a difficult decision," he said, "because I’m not that thrilled with either candidate."
A few steps away, Democratic Committee member Cathy Gelatka was manning an information booth outside of the fire hall. Her support for the President was more firm.
"Well, I have two daughters, and I believe he is pro-women," she said. "I think it’s going to be a very close race."
The other race taking place that morning was Ken Wiest on food delivery duty as he carried multiple crock pots into the fire hall for his wife Mary and the other poll officials, providing a little comfort for what would be a long day at the "office."
"The food is important," he said as he passed the line of voters on his third trip to his van.
Meanwhile, as election official Susan Lefever welcomed the morning turnout, most people were looking for friendly conversation with their neighbors, not partisan debate.
"If anything, I’m glad the political ads will be over," said Mady Laughman, slightly reluctant to share her name with the newspaper.
The bombardment of last minute campaigning didn’t phase Brittany Diem, 20, a first-time voter who just cast her support for Obama. She was enjoying post-poll coffee with her mom Marcy at Dosie Dough.
"I like his views better than Romney’s," she said, simply put, of her first vote.
Marcy added that Obama seemed more concerned with women’s rights than the Republican ticket. "…and we didn’t give him (Obama) enough time to clean up the mess. I think we’re heading in the right direction."
As a business owner (Tim’s Fitness Center), she said business is better today than it was four years ago.
Outside of Dosie Dough, the morning coffee crew was more focused on Election Day humor.
"All you liberals, remember to vote tomorrow," shouted Harold Irwin, trying to throw off the opposition
Maurice Blose, retired Warwick teacher, was just proud to be an American.
"I’m really happy to see Americans participating in democracy," he said. "You can see it at this table, you can see it in Harold … It’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?
"We’re a free country. We don’t have any tanks in front of the fire station, there were no police there intimidating you. Pretty neat. I spent a year in Southeast Asia. I guarantee you, it’s great to be in America."
Harold then pointed out that we’ll be having six more weeks of winter because Maurice saw his shadow.
A big part of the American way of life is choice, and on Election Day, while the spotlight was on Obama and Romney, they weren’t the only presidential options. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein were also, quietly, on the ticket. Lititz artist Stephen Leed, fed up with the two-party system, was going Green in 2012, a move he doesn’t consider to be a wasted vote.
"I’ve had it with the Democrats and the Republicans," he said. "In my opinion, they’re both bought out by corporations, and I’m more interested in supporting a party that isn’t. As far as ‘wasting your vote,’ if you vote you’re not wasting your vote, no matter who you vote for."
At St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, 2W-1P, the voting lines were described as busy, but not necessarily better than any other presidential election.
By 9:45 a.m., they had logged 165 voters. Four years ago, they had 277 at 11:15.
Still, the crowds were steady.
"We had people lined up when we were coming in," said Judge of Elections Linda Lohr. "We’ve had a great turnout, people are very friendly."
She noted that most of the discussion was neighborly chit-chat, not debate over candidate positions on the economy or foreign policy.
"There’s a lot of chatter, but people aren’t talking politics in here."
Out in the hall, Gail Sheeler, Romney supporter, talked about the thoughts behind her vote.
"I think it’s an important election that will determine the direction of the country for many years," she said. "I think it’s important for everyone to vote the way they think, although I don’t always agree with everybody."
Her top issue of concern — the economy.
"The way this country is going, in my opinion, it seems to be going the wrong way right now. Hopefully it will turn around," she said, adding that Romney’s success in business makes him the best man for that job.
Outside, braving the cold, local GOP committee member Jean Grimsley was working at the Republican information table.
"We’re getting a lot of first-time voters, which surprised me," she said. "All ages. We had two women come in this morning who were about 80 years old who had never voted before. And I’m seeing single young people, many people are bringing their children, young married people … I’m seeing all ages. It’s a very good turnout."
As for her support for Romney, the two most important issues are the economy and energy.
"The big thing is his support for small business, because both of my children work in small businesses and they’ve had a rough time," she said. "And the energy, I think the Republicans are open to more drilling (in this country)."
Both parties had polls manned with volunteers throughout the day. Howard Good was doing a shift for the Democrats at Lititz United Methodist Church. His thoughts on Obama:
"I think he’s done a lot of good things during his four years," he said. "The health care reform is very important in my mind. I think the Wall Street reform, the auto bailouts, the recovery plan were all important things for keeping the economy from collapsing worse than it was in 2008. There’s still more to be done, but I think we’re in much better shape than we would have been with other policies."
Mary Lynn Lavender and State Rep. John Bear were also at Lititz UM, representing the local Republicans.
"It seems the momentum right now is probably going towards Romney," Bear said. "It’s been close. It’s a dead heat when you look at the poll numbers, but looking at the enthusiasm, looking at the rallies he’s had, looking at the turnout here and in Lancaster County, and talking to friends at other polls, I would think that it looks good for him … at least in this county, and I think statewide."
He said the economy and jobs could be the two issues that give the advantage to the challenger.
Switching to the topic of state government and Bear’s decision to not run for reelection, he feels his Republican replacement, Steven Mentzer of Manheim Township, running unopposed, will fill in nicely.
"He’s very focused on government reform and transparency," Bear said, "but at the end of the day he’s fighting for people and not getting too caught up with the party apparatus. So, I think he’s a tenacious fighter and he’s going to represent the people well."
Over at the Lititz Public Library (3W-2P) Tom and Celine Clouse’s dog Beanie was demonstrating what she thinks of politics near one of the campaign signs.
"After the past 10, 12, 14 months, I’m pretty happy that this day has finally come … and that it’s almost over," Tom said, opting to not reveal who he voted for.
"Generally, too negative, on both sides," was his assessment of the campaigns.
When asked about the cost of the campaigns, Celine simply said, "Astronomical. Crazy."
"Tax cuts for the middle class," was Tom’s suggestion as a better use for that money.
K’Tresha Mickens had also just voted, along with her father Jeremiah, at the library. They were putting their support behind Obama.
"It’ll be a close one, but hopefully us women can keep our rights," K’Tresha said. "They’re trying to take us back to the 18th century. I like where I am. I like being able to control my body and my health."
Jeremiah, a teacher in Lancaster, said Obama’s extensions on unemployment helped him significantly while he was out of work.
In Brunnerville, some weren’t satisfied with America’s current course.
"I think we need a change," said Karen Harnley, who was covering the Republican post at the Brunnerville Fire Hall along with Rich Mellott. "I think he (Romney) can offer something our last candidate was not able to offer, and that is his business expertise to get us back on the right track, because regardless of what people might say, the economy is what’s hurting our nation today."
Elizabeth Township Supervisor Jeff Burkholder agreed, and felt pretty good about the Republican ticket as he left the voting booth around lunchtime.
"It’s going to be a blowout … for Romney," he said. "I’m very encouraged."
Leslie Penkunas, who was volunteering for the Republicans at the Elizabeth Township municipal building, was equally enthusiastic, saying that she talked to several residents who supported Obama in ’08 but went Republican in ’12.
"This is imperative," she said of a Romney win. "This is a crucial election. In my voting lifetime, this is huge."
For Penkunas, Brubaker and many other local Republicans who don’t agree with President Obama’s policies, there seemed to be an urgency to stop the bleeding now, and a vibrant excitement that Romney was the man to bandage the wound. Despite their best efforts, and the overwhelming local support for the Republican ticket, the nation collectively decided to give the President four more years. And within this Republican stronghold, it has become evident that a Democratic voice is starting to make itself heard in Lititz. More ELECTION, page A3