More than ever, Eastern Iowans seem to be heeding the call to vote early, even if many sense that electing a president Tuesday could be decided by a coin toss.
“There’s things I don’t like about both of them,” said Jeremy Hunt, 31, of Cedar Rapids, as he pushed a wheelbarrow around a construction zone at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “It’s the lesser of two evils. You might as well flip a coin.”
Democratic President Barak Obama is being challenged by Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.
The campaigns, as usual, have heated up as Election Day nears. The candidates and their representatives, from their wives to running mates, have been frequent visitors to Iowa which is considered a “swing” state. The airwaves, newspapers and mailboxes have been filled with campaign promises and attacks against each other.
“I voted early,” said Annette Boland of Williamsburg, co-owner The Woolen Needle quilt shop. “It still didn’t stop the phone calls.” (story continues below photo gallery)
On a sunny yet windy day a week before the election, a loop trip southwest of Cedar Rapids — to Iowa City, Riverside, Kalona, Wellman, Williamsburg and Amana — revealed that at least a sampling of Iowa voters either have or will reluctantly cast their ballots.
“A guy walking down my street, he had the forms, so I filled them out,” said Shawn Rippey, 40, of Cedar Rapids. He said he voted for Obama, yet was waiting for a city bus to take him to work at Thomas L. Cardella & Associates where his job was to telephone Republicans to urge them to vote.
POLITICS OFF LIMITS
“I already voted, but I’m not going to tell you who I voted for,” said Tami Davidson, 47, owner of Outback Wrap hair solon in Wellman as she removed curlers from Mary Yoder’s hair. “When we were in beauty school, we were told not to talk about politics,” she laughed.
“Or religion,” Yoder, 77, added. She was a hairdresser while studying to become a teacher, a career that took her to Mississippi and various locations in Iowa over a 41-year career.
“I plan to go to the polls,” Yoder said, but she hasn’t made up her mind. “If I could, I’d write in your name. The issues are not really discussed. It’s the personalities.”
Neither woman believes the last four years have been “that great.”
“I know promises can be made on paper and promises can be made verbally,” Yoder said, “but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, they’re hard to keep.”
GOOD FOR BUSINESS
In Riverside, Mike Meinders, 60, jokingly said “Shoot ‘em all” about politicians in general. Yet, the retired environmental systems mechanic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City admits that his business, A Plus Graphics and More, derives additional revenue from making political yard signs.
Meinders, whose vote could come down to a coin toss, too, said, “It’s not the president we have a problem with. It’s the Congress and the Senate. They’re the ones giving us all the problems. They get raises and we get more taxes.”
Others, however, have reasons to vote for either Obama or Romney.
“Obama hasn’t done anything wrong,” said Alan Dubberke, 61, as he finished mowing his yard in Amana. He works at Lowe’s home improvement store in Iowa City, operates a bed-and-breakfast and has a business repairing glass and screens. He voted early for the second time and believes the next four years will be better.
“It’s taken this long to get through what was left from the Bush administration,” he said.
“Obama,” said Heather Cline, 21, a Cedar Rapids day care assistant also taking a bus to work. She’s excited to vote in her first presidential election. “I’m on disability,” she added, saying she favors Obama’s health plan. “I can’t afford to lose that if Romney gets elected.”
“It’s hard for anybody to do much in four years,” says Kenny Hahn, 59, of Iowa City, as he forms new gutters for the Congregational United Church of Christ in Iowa City. He thinks Obama needs more time to implement his plans, despite not having his own business as he did four years ago.
“It’s hard to find employees,” he said. “Young people don’t want to work.”
READY FOR CHANGE
Entitlement can become a problem, say Jerry Burrows, 51, of Kalona, who was forced last year to close the tar roofing business his father started more than 40 years ago. He was down to two crews because of rising costs, competition and difficulty finding workers.
“I’m ready for it to be over,” he said about the election, washing a deer cart next to his mobile home. He and former roofer, David Chrzan, 22, who lives a few mobile homes over, enjoy bow and arrow hunting as well as shooting guns for practice. Both fear that Obama would push for more gun control.
“Romney’s run a business,” Burrows added. “Obama never has. He’s always been in office where taxpayers are paying his salary.”
“I think we’re ready for a real change,” Chrzan said. “What’s it going to hurt?”
“I hope the next four years are better than the last four years,” said Heather Gardner, 27, of Solon, who came to the Johnson County Courthouse for jury duty. Since she works in human resources at Frontier Natural Products, she’s concerned about either party’s intentions with Obamacare.
“We need clarification with the health care reform,” she said. “I work with benefits and it’s been kind of a revolving door.”
As the chaff from harvested corn pouring into a grain bin drifts around him, Wellman farmer Doug Shalla, 53, said, “Don’t ask me which one is the better one.” He was more concerned about wrapping up his harvest of 3,500 acres of crops, glad that late season rain helped the soybeans.
TIRED OF POLITICAL MAIL
Back at The Woolen Needle in Williamsburg, Benda Hooper, 49, of North English waited on quilter Jeannne Stenerson, 80, of Marion.
Hooper said she’s tired of opening her mailbox to piles of political fliers. “I’d like to know how much they spend on them,” she said.
Stenerson said the political phone calls bother her more.
“Jack has called me five times and I don’t know who Jack is,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll be glad when it’s all done.”