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Government & Politics

As Ohio Votes Shift, Suburbs Like Bay Village Start Looking More Blue

Heather Tuck-Macalla, Patty McKenna and Liz Harmath
Nick Castele
/
ideastream
More Democrats in the Statehouse and gun control are among the issues that drive Heather Tuck-Macalla, Patty McKenna and Liz Harmath’s political activism.

Four years ago, Heather Tuck-Macalla moved back to Bay Village, and although she’s a firm Democrat, she did not put out a yard sign for Hillary Clinton.

“I was afraid of, I don’t know, just ruffling feathers with neighbors,” she said. “And I regret not doing that, because it’s worth ruffling.”

After all, this majority white, economically better off suburb backed George W. Bush twice, narrowly supported John McCain, and gave Mitt Romney a majority. But when the votes were counted in 2016, Clinton came out 10 points ahead of Donald Trump.

“I did think that Bay Village was more conservative,” Tuck-Macalla said. “But it turns out that I’m not alone. And I think Bay Village is far more progressive than maybe some people think, based on the demographics, perhaps.”

Cuyahoga County is about as Democratic as you can get in Ohio. Richard Nixon is the only Republican presidential candidate to win a majority here in the last half century.

But the geography of that support has been changing in recent years, especially in largely white suburbs, an analysis of 2012 and 2016 electoral results shows. Bay Village and Rocky River swung into the Democratic column in 2016, for instance, while Parma and Middleburg Heights gravitated toward Trump.

As Tuck-Macalla works to flip local Republican-held statehouse districts, she is seeing enthusiasm among suburban women, she said.  A Fox News poll this month shows former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of Trump among Ohio suburban women and white women with college degrees.

On a recent weekend, she delivered Democratic literature to people’s doors. She worked out of a Bay Village front yard, where local Democrats set up a base of operations for the day. Within eyeshot, just a few houses away, stood two Trump-Pence yard signs.

Patty McKenna sat at a table nearby. She lives one city over in Rocky River, which also flipped from Romney to Clinton last time around. McKenna admitted – a bit reluctantly – that she supported Trump in 2016 because she “didn’t like Hillary Clinton.”

But this year is different. 

“I’m having a hard time, but I am not voting for Donald Trump,” McKenna said. “I am certain that he doesn’t care what people think of him, and a president should. And everything falls out of that. He just shoots his mouth off to, in his mind, get something done. But he’s just, he’s so non-presidential. That’s where I’m going to stop with that, because I could go on forever and babble.”

But what really brought her over to the other political side are guns, she said. McKenna has a concealed carry permit, but said gun owners like her ought to compromise on new gun laws.

Her daughter, Liz Harmath, runs the local branch of Moms Demand Action, which advocates for expanded background checks and red flag laws. Harmath doesn’t view gun rights to be such a cultural dividing issue where she lives, she said.

“In Rocky River, I think that voters are smart, and voters are looking for something that is common sense,” Harmath said.

Robert Bodi is president of the West Shore Republicans, a GOP club based in Cleveland’s west side suburbs. He acknowledged that there may be some softness to Trump’s support in suburbs like Bay Village.

“There probably is, to some extent,” Bodi said. “The thing about Trump, he doesn’t hide who he is, he’s always been the man he portrays himself to be, and he likes to challenge people, and he likes to be combative. And some people don’t like that, and that seems to be one of the biggest complaints, not his policies.”

But if Republicans have lost votes in Bay Village, Bodi said they’ve picked up support elsewhere.

“I’m somewhat involved with [the] Parma group, the Parma Republicans, and I got to tell you, Trump is popular in Parma, much more so even than my side of town,” he said. “I feel very confident about where this election’s going.”
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