Jim Kenyon: Primary 2020: Signs of the times on one stretch of road in Hanover

  • Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Columnist
Published: 2/11/2020 9:35:54 PM
Modified: 2/12/2020 12:18:35 AM

Location, location, location. Who knew the real estate agents’ mantra also applies to presidential candidates’ yard signs?

In Hanover, residents at the far end of Lebanon Street — the road leading in and out of town — certainly do.

They took advantage of living on the busy thoroughfare to let the world know — or at least, people headed to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center or the state liquor store at Centerra Marketplace — who they supported in the 2020 Democratic primary campaign.

Living a sidewalk away from a road with 12,000 cars zipping past every day has its pluses and minuses, Lebanon Street resident Gretchen Stokes told me in an email.

A minus? The 12,000 cars zipping past every day.

A plus? It’s a “great curbside location for political signs,” Stokes said.

Judging by their yard signs, Lebanon Street residents are fairly representative of Democrats nationally. Heading into Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, the street didn’t have a clear-cut favorite.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was the front-runner with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, a strong second. Elizabeth Warren’s presence could also be seen. It took two utility poles to hold up a “NH For Warren” mini-billboard at the top of Lebanon Street, just before it turns into Route 120.

I didn’t put much stock in the absence of Trump 2020 signs. This is Hanover, where he received 12% of the vote in 2016.

But I was surprised by the dearth of Bernie fans on the half-mile stretch between the Hanover Co-op and the Hanover-Lebanon line.

Stokes and her spouse, Sean Smith, have the only Bernie sign. In a moment of full disclosure, Stokes revealed it was a leftover from the 2016 campaign. It was only after watching the early Democratic debates that the couple hauled Bernie out of the garage.

“We were reminded of Bernie’s force of nature,” Stokes said. They also put up a Cory Booker sign, which “ironically fell down when he was unfortunately forced to withdraw from contention.”

Forced to pick one for the primary, Stokes and Smith threw their support Buttigieg’s way. They taped a pair of Mayor Pete’s signs to their front windows.

“He is a hard worker from a non-elite background,” Stokes wrote. “We need a leader who is young and smart enough to understand the age of technology that we live in and how to make responsible use of it.”

Jake Reznek, who was headed out with a snowblower to clear a neighbor’s driveway on Sunday afternoon, told me that he’d be voting for the first time Tuesday. The 18-year-old Hanover High School senior was pleased that his mother, Amy Vienna, had erected a large “Pete for New Hampshire” blue banner on the edge their lawn that faces Lebanon Street.

Buttigieg’s communication skills have impressed Reznek. He also likes the way Buttigieg has kept his cool while other candidates take potshots now that he’s climbing in polls.

Mariruth Graham has two “Pete 2020” signs on the edge of her driveway. She attended the Democratic state convention with her teenage son last September, but it was a remark by another candidate that drew her to Buttigieg.

She recalled Booker, the senator from New Jersey who dropped out of the race in January, telling his audience to “support whoever you are most inspired by. Don’t support someone just because you think they can beat Trump.”

Like her young neighbor down the street, Graham has been impressed with how Buttigieg handles himself under fire. At Friday’s debate, “there was a lot of yelling. He stayed very calm and measured,” Graham said. “After the last four years, I don’t want to hear people yelling at each other any more.”

Meg Menkov is backing Warren, partly because of her track record of “trying to help the middle class” and her “willingness to take on big corporations.” (Her 18-year-old daughter, however, is in the Sanders’ camp.)

While talking with Warren campaign workers, Menkov mentioned that she lived on Lebanon Street. “We have high visibility,” Menkov told them. “Feel free to put up a giant sign.”

Some Lebanon Street residents are going beyond yard signs to voice their support for a candidate. They’re using their snow-covered front lawns to show how they really feel.

“Get out of the way joe & bernie & billionaires,” reads one side of a homemade lawn sign. The other side: “Take Back the Midwest.”

It dovetailed with the homeowners’ “Amy for America” yard banner. Klobuchar’s supporters argue that her Minnesota roots are much needed, if Democrats are going to wrestle the middle of the country from Trump.

She’s no billionaire, either. According to Forbes, Klobuchar and her husband, a law school professor, have a net worth of $2 million.

While on the subject of billionaires, I didn’t come across any signs for Michael Bloomberg who skipped the New Hampshire primary. Maybe he’s waiting to see if he wins the nomination to buy the entire street, lampposts and all.

Whether Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders or Warren ultimately wins the nomination, Lebanon Street yard signers are prepared to switch allegiances, if necessary. (Whoops, I forgot to mention Joe Biden. Then again, so has Lebanon Street.)

“There’s a wealth of good candidates,” Menkov said. (And I don’t think she was talking only about Bloomberg.)

In November, “everyone will come together for the Democratic candidate,” Graham said. “Their differences are small, compared to the candidate on the other side.”

And he shall remain nameless — and signless — on Lebanon Street.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@ vnews.com.

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