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Local campaigns prepare for big night

Buttons and stickers, above left, adorn a table at the local Democratic Party headquarters downtown, while a placard outside the Republican campaign office, pictured at right, displays reasons to vote for Republican candidates.

Photo by Jesse Burkhardt
Buttons and stickers, above left, adorn a table at the local Democratic Party headquarters downtown, while a placard outside the Republican campaign office, pictured at right, displays reasons to vote for Republican candidates.

It’s no surprise that political partisans on both sides of this year’s presidential contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton see the election from completely different points of view. But the passion they feel for their respective candidate seems to cut across political boundaries.

Among those who are especially invested are the volunteers at the two political party campaign headquarters in downtown The Dalles. The campaign offices are literally right down the street from each other, with the Republican Party headquarters at 303 E. Third Street and the Democratic Party office just half a block away, at 408 Washington Street.

The offices handle the nuts and bolts of local politics. Volunteers come in and start the coffee, turn on some background music, and greet anyone who wanders in and engage them in political talk. They hand out campaign materials, pass out yard signs, and take donations. It’s low-key work, but the feelings are anything but.

“I’m going to be rejoicing if he wins,” said Darlien France, a Donald Trump supporter who lives in Dufur.

France, treasurer of the Wasco County Republican Party, said Trump was not her first choice – she voted for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Oregon’s primary contest – but she did not hesitate to express enthusiasm for the man who won the Republican nomination after a long primary campaign.

“I didn’t support Trump then (in the primary), but I do now,” she said.

Betsy Hege, chair of the Wasco County Republican Central Committee, said she believes Clinton and Trump are redefining their parties’ base of support.

"In Wasco County, the blue collar vote is going to Trump and the business -- or business as usual -- is a Clinton vote,” Hege said. "Trump is energizing the Wasco County voter who has not felt their vote mattered, and they are eager to turn in a ballot this year. The power really rests in the hands of the voter. If we don't like what is going on in Salem or D.C., then we have the power to change it through our vote."

France weighed in on the latest twist in the 2016 presidential campaign – the revelation late last week that the FBI was again investigating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails sent from a private server. While the public announcement that the FBI was delving further into that case sparked controversy, France said she believes the FBI was doing the right thing.

“I think they should be doing that,” she said.

Hege agreed.

“The U.S. needs to address its problem with political corruption and the allowances made to the super class,” Hege said. “Hillary has benefited from both, so she won't be able to change either. Trump's candidacy is a rare event in politics; he is not owned by any special interest so he is more like you and me, concerned for his country and willing to sacrifice to fix it.”

Hege added that she is especially heartened when she hears of new voters casting ballots for Trump.

“I hear about someone who has never voted before and voting for Trump; that’s what democracy is all about,” Hege said.

France said in addition to helping to put Trump in the White House, the state needs more Republicans in office across the board.

“We really need to get Republicans elected to office in Oregon, or we’ll lose the state,” she said. “Taxes are getting so high, I don’t know how we’ll be able to live here anymore. Especially if Measure 97 passes. It’s going to affect every single person who lives here.”

Measure 97, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot, is a statewide measure that would require corporations in Oregon to pay higher taxes if their sales exceed $25 million.

Down the way at the Democratic headquarters, volunteer Betty Baker of The Dalles was writing thank you notes to those who had contributed funds to the campaign or helped out in other ways.

“We were quite busy up until a week ago,” Baker said.

“We had maybe 10 people a day coming in. It’s a lot quieter now because the yard signs people ordered have been picked up.”Baker said she has been upset by what she sees as the inflammatory rhetoric from Trump, which she believes has fueled a climate of disrespect and hurtfulness.

“I’m so upset about the situation,” she said. “I wanted to at least participate as a volunteer this year and find other like-minded people.”

Baker explained that she admires Clinton and has followed her career for many years.

“I have the greatest respect for her and what she’s been through,” Baker said. “I like the phrase that ‘she’s a workhorse, not a show horse.’”

Baker said she was upset about the FBI’s pursuit of the email controversy that has dogged Clinton’s campaign.

“It’s upsetting that this comes out right now,” Baker explained. “If you listen to what’s being said, it’s not anything Clinton sent herself, but unfortunately this came out before any facts were gathered. The way it is being fanned and flamed by Trump is pitiful.”

Serena Smith, chair of the Wasco County Democratic Party, said she is among those who has already turned in her ballot, and she is ready for the election to be over.

“I feel like I’m overwhelmed with stress,” Smith said. “I don’t want it to be close.”

Baker added that for a time, she wasn’t even sure Trump could be taken seriously.

“He is so off the wall at times, I thought he didn’t want to win,” Baker said. “It was like he was just seeing how far he could go.”

Now, however, the closeness of the national polls has Baker worried.

“If he wins, it’ll be total heartbreak for this country,” she said. “Our image to the world will be shattered.”

Both campaign offices plan events on the evening of Nov. 8. The Democrats are planning a party, for volunteers as well as the public, with the election tallies projected onto a wall throughout the evening.

“It will begin at 6 p.m. on election night,” Smith said. “Bring potluck; something to share -- and behave.”

At Republican headquarters, the plans are similar. Election returns will be shown on a TV screen, and the campaign office will be open to the public.

“Anybody can come in,” said Hege. “Food will be provided. I imagine we’ll start at around 5:30 p.m.”


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