For the first time since 1988, voters in perennial bellwether Montgomery County chose a Republican for president.
Local Republicans said they weren’t surprised that the county where Barack Obama won by huge margins in some neighborhoods four years ago — getting more than 90 percent of votes in 47 precincts in Dayton and Trotwood — made such a shift.
Democrat Hillary Clinton only achieved that margin in 42 precincts and garnered less than 20 percent of the vote in nine others.
President-elect Donald Trump’s largest margin of victory was in the CLA-C precinct in Clay Township where he got 81 percent of the vote. He also won precincts in Germantown, Jackson Township and Brookville.
“People are just tired of what has been going on for the past eight years,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, chairman of the county Republican Party. “They’re tired of political correctness. They’re tired of being beaten down … and this is just a huge victory.”
Based on the number of people he saw visiting the county party headquarters asking for Trump/Pence signs, Plummer wasn’t surprised by the final vote. He said he didn’t notice as much turnout as expected.
“There was a morning rush, but going out after lunch time, I didn’t see a single line. I didn’t see a single line after work,” Plummer said.
According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections, voter turnout was just over 68 percent countywide — up from 64 percent in 2012 but about the same as the 2008 presidential election.
“People want jobs … They want security at the borders. People are, you know, really worried about ISIS, the attacks on our country. It was a perfect storm, and the citizens said enough is enough,” Plummer said.
Local voters said they were surprised by Trump’s victory in Ohio and by the margin of victory.
“It was such a, in my opinion, landslide. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he was going to win, let alone win the way he did,” said Larry Soliani of Dayton, who voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
He’s confident, though, that Trump can address some of his biggest concerns moving forward, including national security.
“I don’t want to see any more terrorist attacks on our own soil. That’s my biggest fear,” Soliani said.
The local Democratic Party was similarly surprised by Trump’s victory here.
“I think it was just a reflection of what the mood in Ohio was and it was reflected in Montgomery County, as well,” said county Democratic Party chairman Mark Owens. “I was surprised. You know, sometimes you rely on a public poll that says it’ll be close.”
Hillary Clinton did not visit Montgomery County during the campaign. That may have played a role in the local vote, Owens said.
“It was frankly the first time going back to 1972, that’s as far as I go back, that we did not have a Democratic nominee here in Montgomery County,” he said. “It was surprising that she didn’t get here.”
A local campaign stop may have helped Clinton win the county, but probably wouldn’t have been enough to impact the statewide vote, he said.
Trump here twice
Donald Trump visited Montgomery County twice — once at the Dayton International Airport during the Republican primary and once for a business roundtable event during the general election. His running mate, Mike Pence, also campaigned in the county.
Clinton surrogates, including her husband, Bill Clinton, and her daughter, Chelsea, as well as running mate Tim Kaine campaigned in the county.
In recent presidential elections, Montgomery County’s vote had gotten closer and closer to mirroring statewide percentages.
In 2000, the county was about 3 percentage points off the state vote — 49 percent voted for Al Gore here, compared to 46 percent statewide. By 2012, Montgomery County mirrored the state more closely than any of the other 87 counties.
But this year, Trump’s victory in the swing county was much narrower than his victory in the swing state.
In Montgomery County, 48.4 percent voted for Trump, compared to 52 percent statewide; and 47.2 percent voted for Clinton, compared to 43.5 percent statewide.
West Dayton resident Barbara Hooks said she never thought Dayton would go Republican, but felt from talking with friends that the black community, traditionally voting Democrat, didn’t turn out to vote enough to lift Clinton to a local victory.
“I fault my own people,” she said.
In 2012, a total of 47 precincts — mostly in west Dayton and Trotwood and heavily African American — voted more than 90 percent for Obama. In one precinct, Dayton 14-D, Obama beat Romney 543-0, with five people voting for other candidates.
That precinct voted 96 percent for Clinton and 2.1 percent for Trump (10 votes), and actually saw an slight increase in voter turnout from 2012.
Voters on both sides said moving forward they hope Trump can work to heal deep divides in the country, which also manifested in the tight race in Montgomery County.
“It’s an opportunity for some kind of change,” said Linda Lopez of Kettering. “Nothing is changing in Washington and now we’re going to see some type of change.”
Mike Heitkamp of Englewood hopes Trump’s rhetoric toward women, immigrants and others isn’t a continued part of his presidency.
“I hope the racists and haters don’t become emboldened by this man,” he said. “That’s my biggest fear.”
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