Democrat neighbor vs. Republican neighbor | News Feature | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Democrat neighbor vs. Republican neighbor

When the person next door supports the other guy


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Driving down a quiet residential street in NoDa, it's easy to see a residential presidential divide that's demonstrating how the person who lives next door may not have a thing — politically, at least — in common with you.

Take these two women, for instance: Barbara Eveland is a staunch Republican. Next door is her Democratic friend Betsy Hooker.

Eveland has signs in her yard showing support for a slate of Republicans: U.S. Sen. John McCain, U.S. House of Representatives District 12 challenger Ty Cobb and state Sen. Robert Pittenger, who's running for lieutenant governor. Hooker has a signs for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama posted in her window and planted in a flower pot.

One might think the artsy NoDa would be a "blue" neighborhood. But it's Hooker who said she and her husband moved their signs from their yard because someone marked on them; Eveland said her signs haven't been messed with. (One of her Republican friends, however, did offer to help clean her house if she gets egged because of her GOP support.)

How do the two friends deal with their ideological differences? With consideration. They even recently posed Eveland's dog Simba in front of McCain and Obama signs as a bipartisan attempt to highlight a voting event. "We respect each other, and that's what makes this country great," Eveland said. "We don't dislike each other for our differencing political views."

Take a ride through many Charlotte streets and it's easy to see why the Tar Heel state is in play. In NoDa, Dilworth and Plaza Midwood, among other neighborhoods, you'll see that for every two signs advertising one candidate, there are often just as many for his opponent.

That can lead to some lively discussions among neighbors. "We have had some pretty interesting conversations," Hooker said. "We're always giving her a hard time about those Republicans, but we don't have any tiffs or anything."

Eveland said she's a McCain supporter because she doesn't like big government. She thinks the reason the economy has run out of steam is because of gas. "If we had not been so involved with the environmentalists and [if the environmentalists had] allowed us to do drilling 10 years ago, we wouldn't be dependent on foreign oil right now," she said emphatically. "The Republicans have been for it and the Democrats have been against it. I'm not for national health care. I don't want to see our country going socialist; that's not what our Constitution was written for."

On the other side of the fence (or driveway, to be exact), Hooker said it was Obama's health care stance that won her over. "I was a small business owner, and the price of health insurance was so much that I had to drop it for a few months," she said. "We need someone in the government that has not been there forever. We don't need another white, high-end guy in there; we need a change. We need someone who can go in there and make a difference and have more support of the middle-class people, because I don't think the government really understands the middle class."

Hooker said she's seen how a national health care plan can work. "My sister-in-law is French and when her kid is sick she can take him to the doctor and she doesn't have to worry if [she has] $20 to pay the co-pay," she said.

As of deadline, Obama had a 7.1 point lead over McCain, according to Real Clear Politics. North Carolina, with its 15 electoral votes, favored Obama by 1.2 points -- a rarity for a state that hasn't gone for a Democrat presidential nominee since 1976.

With the race so close, do neighbors Eveland and Hooker try to sway each other? "I don't try to convince them," Eveland said. "But they try to convince me and I say, 'no, no, no, don't go there.'"

Hooker said she and Eveland have gone back and forth on issues that Obama and McCain differ on, like taxes. Neither woman is new to disagreeing politically with people to whom they are close. "My dad, bless his heart, lived here with me and he was a staunch Democrat. Both of my brothers are Republicans and their wives are Democrats," said Eveland, who was a Gov. Mitt Romney supporter before McCain won the GOP nomination.

Hooker said her parents, particularly her father, are Republicans. "Sometimes we just don't talk about it. My father grew up in a very small town in upper North Carolina, in the mountains. He has a different view on race and everything else. He doesn't think we're ready for a woman or anyone of ethnic background [to be president]. So, he would be perfect for McCain."

On Election Day, when all the votes are counted, Eveland and Hooker will be watching the results to see if their candidate wins. If McCain wins, Eveland plans to have her neighbors over dinner. And if Obama wins, Hooker said, she's going to give her neighbors something from the "blue party."


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