Election Day in Brooklyn…Ohio

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A snapshot of Election Day in a swing-state sister city

There will be no surprises when Brooklyn, New York, turns blue once again this election cycle. Republicans here are outnumbered.

At The Brooklyn Ink that set us to wondering, what’s the election like in other places? What about battleground states?

What about Brooklyn…Ohio?

From a distance (465 miles, or an eight-hour road trip from Brooklyn, New York), our swing-state sister city looks a lot like Trump territory, with a median income of $41,349 and a mostly (82 percent) white community. Some 42 percent of its residents have a high school diploma; 13.9 percent have bachelor’s degrees.

Unlike many small Midwestern towns with such characteristics, Brooklyn, Ohio, has voted overwhelmingly Democratic in past Presidential elections, between 61 and 67 percent, perhaps due to the gravitational pull of very blue Cleveland. (Brooklyn, New York, voted blue between 74 and 81 percent in those elections).

Mary-Jo Banish, who works at City Hall,  described her hometown as “typical blue collar” and proudly added that Brooklyn, Ohio was the first city worldwide with a mandatory seatbelt law, passed in 1966. Brooklyn High School hosted Elvis Presley’s first concert in the Northern United States in 1955, which was supposedly also his first filmed concert. (The Brooklyn, Ohio Historical Society has a section of the floorboard of that concert where Elvis stood, framed.)

With just over 11,000 residents and only 4.2 square miles, residents say Brooklyn, Ohio has a certain magnetic effect: “Even if you leave, you’ll find yourself navigating back at some point,” said Banish, who has worked at City Hall for 39 years. “Schoolteachers have often been teaching for two or even three generations.” Natives call it the “Brooklyn Bubble.”

Driving down what looks like the main drag—Memphis Avenue—Ohio Brooklynites can take their youngsters to the Memphis Kiddie Park, which opened in 1952, and enjoy a ride on “The Little Dipper,” the oldest steel roller coaster in North America. Houses on Zillow range from $70,000 to $130,000, median rent is $683.

Brooklyn, Ohio’s top employer is Keybank National Association, closely followed by the postcard manufacturer American Greetings Corporation and Arrow International, the world’s largest producer of bingo products.

Up until last year, Brooklyn, Ohio was also home to the Hugo Boss plant. Though the factory was sold, clothing manufacturing caught the attention of Hillary Clinton just 15 days ago. In a post on her website Clinton’s campaign said Trump could have hired local manufacturers for his suits and ties, listing a Brooklyn local company as an option.

Being in a battleground state, Brooklyn’s residents have had to endure the campaign circus from up close. “The rallies for both candidates were well attended,” Banish said. “But people are private about who will vote for.”

In the long months running up to the election, Banish said she spotted plenty of yard signs, many of which were supporting Trump’s presidency. This began to change about eight weeks ago, she said, when people started calling City Hall asking where they could buy Clinton signs.

Josh Crutchmer, editor at The Plain Dealer, said despite Brooklyn, Ohio’s blue history he’s been seeing many Trump signs around—suggesting the election results could be surprising.

Frank Zelley, 24, an auto mechanic at Zelley’s Auto Services, also said he saw more Trump signs around the neighborhood. He said the political climate in Brooklyn has been tense.

“You know, we had people stealing our Trump signs,” Zelley said. He planned to vote after he gets off work.

But as the campaigns grew more contentious and Election Day came closer, the yard signs slowly started to disappear. “I expected there to be more now,” Banish said.

marvintolbert_brooklynoh_manuel

Republican Marvin Tolbert, 43, a truck driver who, as a black man, is an exception to the Trump demographic. “I am driving a 901-mile round to Wisconsin today, so I was in line to vote at the Brooklyn Community Center at 6 a.m. I was fourth in line and by 6:30 it was around the corner,” he said. “Mostly white people, but Brooklyn is a white community.

“We were one of the first of few black American families in the area in ‘89, so I saw racism since then. But I didn’t let excuses hold me back.” Tolbert went to Valley Forge high school in Parma, Ohio and graduated from the University of Akron. He went on to win two national championships for the Cleveland Lions, a semi-pro football team, while working for the Cuyahoga Board of Developmental Disabilities.

“I’m all for Trump,” he said. “He’s the man I prayed for to lead this country with tough decisions, and stand by them, and owes no one when he gets in office.”

On Twitter, however, Clinton seemed to hold sway. The conversation started early, with some residents announcing they had voted as early as 7 a.m.

While there was the occasional instance of #DraintheSwamp,

the majority of Twitter users in Brooklyn, OH tended to express support for Clinton.

And though many are feeling the stress of a long and protracted campaign season, enthusiasm for the election remains high in these final hours of the race.

Many also took to social media to post photos of their voting stickers on Twitter and Instagram.

Made my difference for the day

A photo posted by P.Love (@im_a_witness) on

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