Jobs are tight. Unemployment is scary, yet people cope. Many men and women in middle age have become too old to rehire; younger workers with children and aspirations are too young to retire. The unemployed place their hopes in a vote for Republicans or Democrats in order to revive the economy and obtain a source of income…a job.
For them, jobs the only election issue
By Sharon Coolidge •firstname.lastname@example.org • October 23, 2010
There’s only one issue in this year’s elections: jobs. And no wonder: about one in 10 Ohio and Kentucky residents are unemployed.
People have seen the candidates’ ads, read their mailers and heard their rhetoric. But what do the people who lost their jobs say about how they’re voting? Who do they blame? How do they think their vote will help? Here are their stories:
Ray Hartke, 46, Florence
As a building materials inspector in the early 2000s, Hartke feared a real estate market crash would leave him out of a job.
So he dropped his hours to part-time and enrolled at Northern Kentucky University, where he pursued a double major in political science and public relations. Just as Hartke graduated in 2008, he was laid off. Hartke is still out of work, and that’s prompted him to switch political parties.
A longtime Democrat, in 2008 Hartke threw his allegiance to Ron Paul for president. Because Kentucky has closed primaries, he had to officially switch parties to cast his vote. Paul didn’t win, but Hartke didn’t switch back.
“I don’t agree with the Democratic Party anymore,” Hartke said. “The Dems are supposed to be for the working class person, which is what I am. But as time goes on, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.”
He supports Paul’s politics: fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, anti-war and anti-bailout. This election cycle, Hartke’s not only voting for a Paul, he’s volunteering: in this case, Ron Paul’s son Rand Paul, running for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat. He’s has put up signs, made calls and put his college degree to work writing press releases for the campaign.
Hartke, who has a 19-year-old son and got married earlier this month, is hoping to find a job in lobbying or advocacy.
In the meantime, volunteering for Paul keeps him motivated. “If it weren’t for this, I don’t know where I would be psychologically,” Hartke said. “It’s getting pretty depressing.”
Jack Neal, 43, Fort Thomas
Neal’s grandfather was an organizer for the coal miners union in Harlan, Ky. His dad was a union steward for an electrical components company.
And for 20 years Neal himself worked for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 212 in Cincinnati – until he was laid off two years ago.
“Labor unions are taking a beating,” Neal said. “If companies can make their product in China they will – no minimum wage, no benefits, no retirement.
“We can’t compete with that,” Neal said.
That’s why he said he’s voting for Jack Conway, Kentucky’s Democratic candidate for the Senate. Conway is running against Republican Rand Paul.
“Conway is a friend of labor, he will try and get jobs for the people of Kentucky, Neal said. “We haven’t heard one thing about jobs from Rand Paul.”
Neal said he sees Paul as anti-union, anti-health care and who hasn’t said anything about jobs. “Republicans worry about guns and abortions,” Neal said. “You better vote your job and the economy. If you can’t feed your family, nothing else matters.”
The husband and father of two – one a college freshman, the other in high school – Neal said for the last year he’s depended on family for help in paying his mortgage, car payment and other bills. “I tell the young guys at the union hall, ‘Keep your union strong,’” Neal said. “It’s the only thing that will keep you going.”
Aimee Mai, 39, Colerain Township
Mai has taught almost continually – switching schools now and then, but always moving on to another job – since graduating from college in 1994.
That is, until she lost her job at Taylor Mill’s St. Anthony School in April.
Mai is a mother of 8-year-old twin boys whose husband’s job provides health insurance. She said money is so tight she checks with her husband before withdrawing cash from the bank – just in case there isn’t enough.
“We’re barely getting by,” she said.
She doesn’t blame the economy on Democrats or Republicans, noting the struggles began under the Bush administration. But, she doesn’t believe Obama has handled the downturn well. “The stimulus hasn’t been spent as promised,” said Mai, a Republican.
The job loss prompted her to look at what her elected officials were doing to fix the economy. She’s voting Republican, planning to check off Steve Chabot in the 1st District Congressional race. A Chabot sign juts from her lawn and she’s asked for signs from other Republican candidates.
“I’m not saying I love the Republicans, but they are a more fiscally conservative party and the country needs that right now,” Mai said. She sees the Republican Party as willing to keep George Bush’s tax cuts, which she believes will prompt small businesses to hire and improve the economy.
Until she can find a teaching job, she’s been selling books online, waiting for her background check to clear so she can tutor and has applied to work at a warehouse for the Christmas season.
“Not exactly my career path, but still a job,” she said.
Randy Richardson, 56, Forest Park
When Richardson lost his chemical engineering job six months ago, he knew layoffs in the business were commonplace in the current economy – manufacturing companies aren’t building new plants or upgrading existing plants.
But, with one child in college and another heading to college shortly, he still needs a job.
Looking for work is his first priority, but he’s also using his extra time to volunteer for Democrat 1st Congressional candidate Steve Driehaus’ re-election campaign.
He rallies workers on weekdays, then they canvass Forest Park on weekends encouraging people to vote.
“This year I really wanted to get involved,” Richardson said. “The main reason is because I felt the Republicans are being allowed to take a terrible economic situation which they created under George Bush and pretend it is the fault of the Democratic establishment because they haven’t fixed it immediately.”
His canvass mission: getting people out to vote.
“This year I don’t think I could let the political process proceed without input from me,” Richardson said. “I don’t want to be just a looker-on and I don’t want to be sad and angry if undesirable results occur knowing I was not at least part of helping to prevent that.”
A longtime Democrat, Richardson said he sees party leaders taking action on the economy.
He’s for middle class tax cuts and supported Obama’s stimulus. There are two ways to get out of the recession, tax reduction and increased government spending,” Richardson said. “The Democrats are doing both.” He chose Driehaus’ campaign because he voted for Obama’s health-care law and because of Driehaus’ efforts to save jobs at Evendale’s GE Aviation plant.
“I live in Driehaus’s district and it’s clear to me that in the two years he has been in the House he has had more of an impact on the well-being of area than Chabot ever did,” Richardson said. “Chabot was passive and got comfortable.”
For additional perspective on the hardship and disappointment suffered by our fellow citizens, see:
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