By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal staff writer
As the nation’s political eye turns toward Cleveland on Thursday for the first debate between Republican presidential candidates, voters in the Akron area are getting comfortable in front-row seats.
The Beacon Journal visited some areas that are high on the list of likely Republican voters to check the mood. All of those interviewed were eager to see the candidates debate, saying that though they couldn’t get tickets, they’ll be watching closely from their televisions at home.
“There’s a big field, but it’s exciting to watch them,” said Sue O’Donnell of Stow. “There’s just a lot of different people. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Donald Trump has dominated headlines in the weeks leading up to the event at Quicken Loans Arena as he’s delivered controversial quotes on some of the most-discussed issues.
“I think Donald Trump is a joke,” said Vernon Pees of Kent.
But Larry Kline, also of Kent, was quick to say he’s “100 percent Donald Trump.”
“He’s out there with his agenda, and his agenda is, to me, nonpolitical,” Kline said. “He’s not having to play the typical role of all the politicians.
“[Trump is] saying things that other people won’t say. You won’t find our governor [John Kasich] saying stuff like that. You won’t find [Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker saying stuff like that, [Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio, [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie. This is going to be very interesting, if he maintains that he wants to be the candidate, it’s going to be a very interesting political [climate] over the next 12 months.”
Stephanie Condric of Canton identifies as a lifelong Republican who jumped party lines for Barack Obama in 2008. But with 17 candidates entering the field for the Republican nomination, she’s open to returning to her political roots, and that includes considering Trump.
“There’s a lot of things that [Obama has] done that I liked, but I’d really like if the Republicans could come up with a moderate candidate,” Condric said. “I’d like things to be more in the middle than as polemic as they’ve been.
“It really shouldn’t matter whether your president is far left or far right. Congress is supposed to bring people back to the middle so it’s good for the people, and they haven’t done it. I’m very frustrated by that. I would like to find a candidate that I think is something people can work with.”
Trump’s financial independence is appealing to some local voters, including many of those interviewed. However, while he may be the most visible candidate at this point, there are still 16 other hopefuls who are on the minds of those with the power to choose their next leader.
Those candidates will take the stage in downtown Cleveland prepared with stances on many issues, which run the gamut for voters around Akron.
Pees wants to see hopefuls cover immigration, citizenship, the recent news surrounding Planned Parenthood, and the Iranian nuclear deal, saying, “I think anyone who trusts Iran to follow this accord is a lot dumber than I am.” Edie Hauptman of Orange Village agreed with Pees, calling the agreement “a bad deal.”
Another major topic for nearly everyone polled was employment.
“Even though our unemployment is quote-unquote low, it’s mostly service jobs,” Kline said. “It’s not quality jobs. We’re losing the middle class in this country because of low wages versus the haves and have-nots.
“A college degree doesn’t guarantee a job anymore. … I talked to a client yesterday, and their daughter had graduated from a school out in California with a degree in sculpture, and she’s living back at home. How are you going to get a job with a degree in sculpture? There’s student debt, and they’re like ‘OK, I’m going to wait tables, I guess.’ We’ve got to get focused on technical training, real training for jobs. It’s not about going to college.”
While somewhat utopian in theory, Americans are ready to see a presidential candidate transcend party lines in the name of positive action and “to see our country the way it used to be,” Hauptman said. Condric echoed a similar sense of weariness caused by the nation’s politics.
“I think a lot of Americans are disenchanted by our government, and they feel somewhat betrayed by their self-serving purposes,” she said.
All of those interviewed were eager to see the candidates debate on Thursday, saying that though they couldn’t get tickets for the event, they’ll be watching closely from their televisions at home.
Nick Shook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.