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Chesapeake, Virginia Business Owner Shifts To Romney Amid Rising Costs

Katherine Davis, Meng Meng |
November 6, 2012 | 10:12 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Romney and Ryan in Norfolk, Virginia in August. (James B Currie/Flickr)
Romney and Ryan in Norfolk, Virginia in August. (James B Currie/Flickr)
In Chesapeake County, Virginia, Election Day comes at the end of a months-long barrage of unavoidable campaigning.

“Personally, I've gotten calls from both sides and I'm tired of it. I've gotten calls from Republicans and Democrats, you know at home,” said James Frye, principal of Indian River High School in Chesapeake.

Frye has not only seen the ads on TV and gotten the phone calls at home, he’s had the politicians in his school. On Nov. 3, in the final weekend before the election, Indian River High School was the host site for Bill Clinton who came to speak on Obama’s behalf. But this was nothing new for Frye and his students—Clinton had already visited the school in 2008. Frye said about 1,000 energetic supporters filled the school gym to see Clinton last weekend, but this week just felt like a regular week at school.

This swing state, which picked Obama in the 2008 elections—the first time the state had voted for a Democrat in over 40 years—is up for grabs this time around. The Real Clear Politics average polls from Politico.com show Romney with about 47.7 percent of Virginia's votes, just shy of Obama’s 48 percent.

High profile campaigning has been hard to avoid in the area. Republican candidate Mitt Romney visited Chesapeake on Oct. 17. First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at nearby Hampton University on Nov. 2. Stevie Wonder held a free concert in support of Obama in Norfolk on Monday night.

Chesapeake County, particularly the metropolitan area at the southern end of Chesapeake Bay known as Hampton Roads, is a political battleground for several reasons. Its large military presence, its proximity to Washington DC and its 30 percent African American population all contribute to an almost evenly split voter population.

Even party leaders are weary of campaigning.

"The thing that makes you tired of it is just what the campaign ads are about. If someone starts a campaign on a positive note and tells you what their agenda is and what their plan is then the other side takes that and picks it apart,” Randy Menefee, chair of the Chesapeake Democrats said, “I wish [negative campaign ads would] go away, but that's what the big bucks are being spent for.”

It’s true—both campaigns have spent massive amounts of money on advertising in Virginia, about $8 million a piece in the southeastern part of the state alone.

Peter Burkhimer, chair of the Cheseapeake Republican Party said, “In Chesapeake, people have tremendous concerns about budget and debt. If the government were to cut the military budget, which is a major component of our economy, that means 2,000 plus jobs will be lost here."

Jeff Brown, owner of Chesapeake’s Cotton Southern Bistro, where Mitt Romney ate a meal during his visit in October agrees that economics are key in this election.

“The president promised a good game, but he didn’t take action. Look at us business owners. We are at risk,” Brown said.

Brown voted for Obama in 2008, but rising costs of food and the increased cost of providing health insurance for his employees under the Obama administration have caused him to change his mind this year.

“I think Mitt Romney is the person we need,” he said.

INFOGRAPHIC: Swing State Battleground: Chesapeake, Virginia

Even if Mitt Romney’s economic policies align with Virginia’s large military population and some business owners, Menefee, and Virginian Democrats have their own reasons to feel confident going into this election.

"I'm pretty sure Obama going to win,” Menefee said, “the Republicans are pretty loud and noisy and the Democrats aren't saying as much but we're just waiting for Election Day.”

Their secret weapon, Menefee said, might be Virgil Goode, a former Virginian congressman running for president on Virginia ballots with the Constitution Party. Though third party candidates have rarely generated attention in Virginia, The Washington Post reported that Goode’s long history in the state’s politics could give him enough popularity to pull a few precious voters away from Romney and help the Democrats win the state’s 13 electoral votes.

Contact Staff Reporter Katherine Davis here and Staff Reporter Meng Meng here.



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