Northeast Ohio Suburbs, Divided Between Clinton and Trump, Look Ahead to a New President

Walton Hills is looking for new buyers for a factory left behind by Ford.
Walton Hills is looking for new buyers for a factory left behind by Ford. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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The city of Bedford and village of Walton Hills are neighbors in the southeast suburbs of Cleveland. They share a school district. But in this year’s election, they voted for different candidates.

Donald Trump carried Walton Hills with 58 percent of the vote, and 72 percent in Bedford chose Hillary Clinton. In these two communities, Democrats and Republicans wonder just how the next president will deliver on his many promises.

Expectation, And Some Skepticism, In Walton Hills

Long, sloping roads with no sidewalks wind through Walton Hills. It’s a village of about 2,300 people, and many homes are built on acre-sized plots of land. Lawn decorations spell out “Merry Christmas” outside the village hall.

Kevin Hurst is the mayor.

“I supported Donald Trump,” Hurst says. “He is not my hero. He is not my role model. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I have my values in place.”

Hurst says he’s independent but conservative. He says he supported Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in their first runs for president, but grew frustrated with dysfunction in Washington. He wants Trump fix infrastructure and bring manufacturing jobs to the U.S.

“Our largest employer was the Walton Hills Ford stamping plant,” he says. “And they made the announcement in 2012 that they would be leaving in 2015 and that’s what came to pass in February of 15. And that’s been one of our biggest issues.”

Now Hurst is trying to find new buyers for the factory. Workers like William Deak spent their careers there.

“I worked there for 35 years,” Deak says. “Started as a fireman, of course, and got up to be chief engineer, finally. And I retired in 1989.”

Deak and his wife, Jean, have lived in Walton Hills for more than 50 years. Jean Deak says she’s been a Democrat all her life—but this year, she voted for Trump. She wants the new administration to change Obamacare and improve the economy.

“We need new jobs,” she says. “We need jobs brought to the United States and stay here. And they have to look—they have to build the wall.”

Though a supporter, Jean Deak says she’s not confident the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border will be built—or that it will prevent illegal immigration.

In Bedford, Disappointment and Caution

Just a few miles away, in Bedford, semi-trucks rumble down a street lined with cafes, barber shops and small businesses.

“I don’t feel too good,” said Michael Ikner, a former auto worker who’s lived in the city for 18 years. “I think that Trump’s going to mess up everything that Obama did.”

Bedford has more than five times the population of Walton Hills. More than half of Bedford residents are African-American, while Walton Hills is predominantly white. The median household in Walton Hills makes about $66,000 a year. In Bedford: about $40,000.

But both do have this in common: they’ve lost major employers recently. In 2013, Bedford pharmaceutical company Ben Venue closed.

Anne McPherson is a Bedford Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton. She’s retired from administrative assistant work at manufacturer Alcoa. With a faith group called Greater Cleveland Congregations, McPherson helped advocate for the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m hoping he doesn’t mess with the Obamacare and Social Security and Medicare,” McPherson said. “Those are three things that I’m very interested in. The Obamacare—I mean we have 20 new million people receiving medical. Everyone should be entitled to that.”

McPherson doesn’t expect the Trump administration champion other causes she supports: On police reform, she says, “I don’t think it’s going to go so well,” adding, “I don’t think things are going to get any better for the prison reform.”

Bedford Councilwoman Sandy Spinks is a Democrat who voted for Clinton, too, but says she wasn’t enthusiastic about it. Spinks wants the new administration to bring down healthcare costs, and she offers this explanation for why Trump won:

“He was telling the people, your blue-collar people, what they wanted to hear. Now can he bring back the coal mines and do stuff like that? No. Not going to happen,” Spinks said. “So I just hope he doesn’t let those people down. That’s what I hope. I just hope he doesn’t let those people down.”

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