You are here

John Kerry

The Other Paper 2004: Arlington's Kerry backers impress even Republicans

The Other Paper

August 26 - Sept 1, 2004

By Jordan Gentile

[Scanned print images (page 1) (page 2)]

The most important moments in life come down to the smallest details. Like, say, noticing a bumper sticker.

On a rainy day last March, Upper Arlington resident Melissa Hedden noticed a rather unusual thing while she drove her children home from school. The car in front of her brandished a sticker with the cryptic acronym, "ABB."

For just a moment, her hopes soared. She followed the car into its driveway and tentatively introduced herself to the driver.

"I said, `I'm not stalking you, but I want to know: Does that sticker mean Anybody but Bush?"'

Yes, the woman replied, and a movement was born.

Hedden had finally found a kindred spirit in Republican-dominated Upper Arlington. When her new friend introduced her to a couple like-minded residents, they collectively laid the groundwork for a grassroots campaign on behalf of John Kerry that has drawn unexpected support and intense hostility from the community.

Even after Bush-Cheney yard signs were distributed in Upper Arlington this week, Kerry's signs have the upper hand by about a 3-2 ratio. Meanwhile, UA for Kerry meetings have been attended by hundreds of people at a time. All of this has caused some measure of surprise, not least from the organization's founders.

When the group was started, Hedden said, "We looked at each other and thought, `OK, is this just going to be us and our families?' "

Six hundred members later, she added, "We've been overwhelmed by the depth of the support."

While few seriously expect UA for Kerry to threaten President Bush's dominance in Upper Arlington, the group's successalong with its brash tactics-has grabbed headlines in both the local and national press.

Air America, the liberal radio network, recently broadcast a piece about the group. And online columnists and assorted bloggers have pointed to the phenomenon as proof that the upper-crust suburbs of redstate America are turning ever so gradually blue.

Tim Rankin, a city council member and president of the UA Republican Club, dismisses all of this as nonsense.

The Kerry group, he said, "likes to wear a bunch of T-shirts and write a bunch of letters to the editor. That doesn't mean their support is growing."

But Priscilla Mead, a former Republican mayor of Upper Arlington and state legislator, disagreed. Many independents and young Democrats have moved to UA, she said. For that matter, the Republican Party's positions on social issues such as abortion and gun control no longer play as well with the suburban population as a whole.

This disaffection, Mead said, has been brilliantly exploited by UA for Kerry.

"I don't recall any effort like this before," she said. "It's fun and active and spontaneous, and it's coming from knowledgeable people whose party has been out of power, so they're hungry."

"The Bush campaign," she added, "seems to be run primarily from Washington, and that lack of spontaneity and grass-roots enthusiasm is evident."

Upper Arlington's Kerry supporters certainly got a jumpstart on the local Bushies earlier this year-beginning with the contentious matter of political yard signs.

Last spring, many residents were surprised-and some were outright angry-to see Kerry advertisements popping up all over Upper Arlington's well-manicured lawns. The sight was all the more dramatic because Bush supporters, observing a law restricting political ads that was no longer in effect, had not planted any signs of their own.

The dominant political party had been beaten to the punch, and resentment flourished. Many pro-Kerry signs have been uprooted and stolen, and Hedden said UA for Kerry members have been the victims of vandalism and verbal abuse.

Republicans say there's little proof that Bush supporters are behind such activities.

In one case, however, the accusation panned out: Mitch Banchefsky, a prominent Republican attorney, admitted to police last month that he directed his daughter to swipe a sign from a Kerry activist's yard.

More animosity would follow. During the Upper Arlington Independence Day parade, about 100 Kerry supporters-fully clad in "UA for John Kerry" T-shirtsgathered on a lawn along the parade route community. They were hard to ignore, and the gesture ruffled a lot of feathers.

"This blatant abuse of a well-known and renowned non-partisan event held in honor of our country," resident Michael G. Mimnaugh wrote in a letter to the Upper Arlington News, "was offensive and unnecessary."

Hedden said she regrets the hard feelings between UA for Kerry and some elements of the community. She said the members of her group had no intention of offending anyone.

On the other hand, she said, the strategy they've used to attract attention was born of necessity.

Democrats start with an inherent disadvantage in Upper Arlington. If Kerry supporters hadn't gone to extra lengths to make themselves visible, she said, many likeminded citizens might have been too intimidated by the Republican majority to speak out and become active in the campaign.

"There's a strong presence of progressive voters in Upper Arlington," Hedden added. "Now people know it."

Columbus Dispatch 2004: Lawyer in hot water over removal of Kerry sign


[Scanned print image]

After having two other John Kerry signs stolen from her yard - the first thanks to lawyer Mitchell H. Banchefsky - Ann Boucher of Columbus made her own.

Mitchell H. Banchefsky doesn't seem like someone who would lead a young person astray.

Besides being a partner in the Downtown law firm of Schottenstein Zox & Dunn, Banchefsky, 51, is a part-time law director for New Albany and Marble Cliff, and a member of the Ohio Crime Victims Compensation Fund board.

But then, it is an election year.

Yesterday, Banchefsky acknowledged to The Dispatch that he told his 13-year-old daughter last month to filch a John Kerry campaign sign from the yard of Ann Boucher, of Clearview Avenue, on the Northwest Side.

Two people witnessed the theft and gave Boucher the license plate number of the suspect's vehicle, which Columbus police traced to Banchefsky.

He said he was driving with his daughter when he spotted the Kerry sign at the corner of Clearview and W North Broadway. He stopped and asked her to grab it, which she did, Banchefsky said.

He was more irritated that the sign was too close to W North Broadway - in the public right of way - Banchefsky said, than he was that it supported the Democratic presidential candidate. A registered. Republican, he is an avid supporter of President Bush.

"Most people don't realize you can't put signs in the right of way," Banchefsky said.

"I'm not using that as an excuse. It was an exercise in bad judgment on my part. I should have called the Columbus code-enforcement people and had them remove it."

Boucher, who spoke twice with Banchefsky after the incident, was skeptical of his right-of-way argument. The sign was at least 12-feet from North Broadway, she said, and well within her property.

"And even if it was in the right of way, what right does he have to take it down?" she said. "It sounds like vigilantism. This is about my First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

"This was a Bush-Kerry thing, not a right-of-way thing."

Banchefsky said he is sensitive to the right-of-way issue because a Bush sign had been removed from his yard, possibly because of right-of-way concerns.

Banchefsky, who sent Boucher a $10 check for the sign, said, "This is being blown out of proportion. I did it on impulse."
Columbus City Prosecutor Steve McIntosh said he would not pursue the case unless Boucher files a complaint.

Boucher said she will not do that because she also would have to file a complaint against Banchefsky's daughter.

Instead, she plans to file an administrative complaint against Banchefsky with the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary councel, which investigates allegations against lawyers.

Since the July 17 incident, a second Kerry sign has been stolen from Boucher's yard.

The determined Kerry supporter has installed a third sign that she made herself. "I'll keep replacing them," she said.

The whole situation is unfortunate, said the mayor of Dublin, where Banchefsky handled zoning and development issues until about a year ago.

"The political process is to allow everyone to run for office and to allow them to tell people about that," Mayor Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher said.

Banchefsky showed bad judgement, but his part-time job is secure in New Albany, Mayor Nancy Ferguson said last night.

Ferguson, an attorney, couldn't say if Banchefsky had taken the law into his own hands by having his daughter remove the sign. "I would have to think about that," she said.

There are better way to get young people involved in politics, New Albany Council Member Colleen Briscoe said.

"I would not pull out yard signs, and I wouldn't be having my daughter do it," Briscoe said. "What was he thinking?"

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer