IW Republicans predict they will remain dominant

Published 12:37 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2016

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

With the election now less than a week away, some are beginning to wonder whether Isle of Wight, which has historically voted majorly Republican, will inch closer to the blue line this time around.

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After the backlash from the now infamous Access Hollywood recording, in which Donald Trump describes sexually assaulting women to host Billy Bush, the Trump campaign lost support from numerous Republican leaders and took a serious hit in national polls. Hillary Clinton at one point held a 15-point advantage over Trump in Virginia after the video was released. However, after FBI Director James Comey announced he would be reopening an investigation into Clinton’s emails from her private server last week, her lead is beginning to quickly narrow, as an Oct. 28 poll conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy showed Clinton leading by 7 points with 46 percent and Trump with an improved 39 percent.

Through the scandals, the Isle of Wight County Republican Party has not wavered from backing its candidate this November, according to Chairman Bill Coburn.

“Isle of Wight Republicans are united this year behind our ticket and are working to carry the county and our new Congressional District (3rd) for our candidates,” Coburn said in an email. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Coburn said that he has attended meetings and conferences featuring the party’s national candidates and said he believes in their integrity.

“Both Mr. Trump and Gov. [Mike] Pence are impressive and sincere in their desire to rebuild our military and address our critical veteran issues as well as improving our economy and protecting our communities,” Coburn said.

Some young Republicans have not been quite as enthusiastic about the ticket, however.

Caleb Kitchen, 23, had been involved in local politics since a young age, now studies government and international politics at George Mason University.

Up until the final debate, he had yet to decide whether he would support Trump.

“I think what’s driving this election is what’s called anti-partisanship,” said Kitchen. “It’s where you’re not voting for someone because you like them, you’re voting for someone simply because you hate the other option.”

Kitchen said that one of his primary concerns in this election is the future outcome of the Supreme Court, to which the next president will likely get to appoint up to three new members in the coming years.

“I do feel disenfranchised about what Trump says, but at the same time, we need to fight the war, not just focus on the battle,” Kitchen said. “As Republicans, we can deal with four years of Trump, we can bite the bullet.”

Kitchen said civil discussion about issues this election season has become increasingly difficult to have.

“In that sense, this election has been very different from the past because those lines of civility have completely eroded,” Kitchen said. “People can’t have a civil conversation, can’t walk away as friends.”

Kitchen said he is moving away from the campaigning aspect of politics and has been focusing on policy while at George Mason University, where he is still involved in the College Republicans.

“I do think that change is not going to come from outside the parties, I think it’s going to be an inner change,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen said that while this election season has been negative at times, it has not made him cynical about politics.

“I haven’t become more cynical,” said Kitchen. “I haven’t become more hopeful either, I can tell you that for sure. It’s really unfortunate that these are our two options.”

On the local Democratic side, Liam Barlow, 17, a senior at Smithfield High School, has been working in the Isle of Wight Democratic committee since 2012, putting in over 100 hours of work for Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s campaign in 2013.

Barlow described this year’s presidential election as “momentous.”

“I’ve never cared for the description of this election as being between two equally bad candidates,” Barlow said in an email. “I truly believe one candidate has a proven track record of helping working families and … and another who is a know-nothing fraud who is making dangerous false promises to the American public.”

Barlow said that he has witnessed a good deal of cynicism from his peers in this election, many of whom dislike both candidates and are therefore not planning on voting or participating in the election this year. 

“Government has worked so poorly for years that they don’t see the difference it makes,” Barlow said.

While Barlow said he has become mildly more cynical himself this election year, he notes that he has seen both the bad and good.

“It has horrified me to see the extent of the hatred living in so many Americans on issues from race to religion to sexual orientation,” said Barlow. “But I’ve seen the resilience of those opposed to this bigotry in my campaign work, reinforcing my faith in the public overall.”

“I’ve learned that some of the public is vulnerable to dangerous rhetoric, but also overall smart enough to reject the dangerous ideas of Mr. Trump.”

Barlow said he doesn’t expect Isle of Wight to vote majorly Democratic this season, but is hoping to see Clinton reach 40 percent of the vote.

“I believe a decrease in Republican turnout and a strong field campaign that I’ve witnessed firsthand that has remained locally focused will make a difference.”

Despite Barlow’s passion and involvement in the process this year, he will miss the chance to vote in the election by just two days. His 18th birthday is Nov. 10.

While he is disappointed, Barlow said he feels his voice has been heard just as strongly through his involvement in the process.   {/mprestriction}