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Political Switcher: Republican Since Childhood, Voting for Obama

Mark Patrosso re-registering. (Photo courtesy Mark Patrosso)

By Lisa Morehouse

We don’t need to tell you the American electorate is polarized these days. You just have to tune in to any call-in show or even make an injudicious casual remark at Thanksgiving dinner to realize how personal our political identities are and how emotional discussing the issues and values surrounding them can be. So we decided it would be interesting to ask one Republican and one Democrat why they did what is unthinkable to so many: switch parties. Two portraits of political discontent…

Republican to voting for Obama below, and Democrat to Republican here.

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The first thing you should know about Mark Patrosso is that he was very involved in the Republican Party for a very long time. At just 9-years-old, he watched the entire 1964 Republican Convention when Barry Goldwater was nominated — even though his parents weren’t interested in politics.

If anything, Patrosso should have been a Democratic kid. He spent his childhood in East Detroit, a working-class Democratic suburb of the Motor City. In junior high, he says other kids probably thought he was a little weird when he volunteered to fill a display case with information on presidential candidate Richard Nixon. “I remember going into the local Nixon headquarters, picking up buttons, reading profiles,” Patrosso recalls.

Patrosso was just crazy for politics. “I probably actually read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in junior high and high school, or referred back just to understand what they really meant,” he says. “I’m not sure that my peers even cared.”
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Election Road Trip: Silicon Valley Republicans — Wandering in a Political Wilderness

Boris Feldman tries to woo a potential voter to the GOP. (Image Courtesy Boris Feldman)

Boris Feldman tries to woo a potential voter. (Image Courtesy Boris Feldman)

For Election 2012 The California Report has been hitting the road to talk to voters in various parts of the state –  previously we’ve visited Riverside and Fresno. Today we turn to Silicon Valley. You might think the famously entrepreneurial business culture of Silicon Valley naturally fosters Republican sentiments, but the Republicans we talked to say they’re wandering in the political wilderness.

The Santa Clara County Republican Party recently held a fundraiser for Johnny Khamis, the GOP-endorsed candidate for San Jose City Council District 10. About 25 people showed up to rub shoulders over platters of hors d’oeuvres from Costco. If Khamis were to win, there would be two Republicans on the 10-member council.

“I go knocking on doors in my precincts every day,” Khamis tells me, “and some of them will ask me straight up: ‘Are you a Republican or Democrat?’ And I tell ‘em, ‘It’s a nonpartisan race.’ And then they say, ‘So what are you? A Democrat or a Republican?’ And I say, you know, ‘I’m a Republican,’ and if it’s a Democrat,  a lot of them will, um, slam the door in my face. Occasionally. OK, not a lot of them. But occassionally. It happens.”

“The Republicans in California have to completely recast the party or they’ll be in a permanent minority.”

Here in Santa Clara County, Republicans account for just 23 percent of registered voters. Compare that with 30 percent statewide. It’s fair to say Republicans are feeling outnumbered in many parts of California, but Helen Wang of San Jose says she  feels like she has a target on her forehead.

“That’s how I feel,” she says, laughing. “Because usually nobody supports me at all.” Continue reading

Election Road Trip: Inland Empire Voters Seek a Voice in Wake of Recession

Riverside Foreclosure Auction/Scott Shafer

Outside the courthouse in the city of Riverside housing speculators sit in lawn chairs — protected from the mid-day sun by little blue awnings – and place their bids in the daily home foreclosure auction.

The same scene plays out every week day in San Bernardino, Chino, Fontana and other Inland Empire cities. Behind each auction is someone who reached out for the American Dream but couldn’t hold on.

On a road trip to take the political pulse of this growing region, The California Report’s Scott Shafer talked with homeowners losing their grasp and investors scooping up properties at a discount — who say they are re-energizing the area’s economy and helping it recover from the crushing effects of the recession.

But it will take a long time for the Inland Empire to bounce back from the mortgage meltdown. The region boomed in the last decade, then suffered the second highest home foreclosure rate in the country. It still struggles with 13 percent unemployment, higher than the state average.

The recession has left many in the Inland Empire feeling politically irrelevant and overlooked, in spite of the fact that the region is home to 4 million people, larger than many states.

In his reporting, Shafer found people working to create a stronger political voice for the region. And this election year could be key.

Though the Inland Empire has long been a Republican stronghold, many of the new arrivals from coastal cities are more likely to be Democrats. That means that several congressional elections here are now hotly contested. And with both parties campaigning hard, the Inland Empire could get what it’s been craving: attention from politicians.

Listen to Shafer’s story: