A news crew from CNN has been in Stark County since Saturday talking to voters who just might decide the presidential race on Nov. 6.
“As Ohio goes, so goes the president,” said the CNN news reporter on a live television broadcast Tuesday morning from a farm business in this quiet, rural community in Stark County.
CNN is making a six-state trek through battleground swing states with a focus on swing counties, said Traci Tamura, senior producer. Ohio and its “most important” swing county — Stark — is the first stop.
“We’re looking for a flavor of local Stark County voters,” Tamura said.
What did she and her crew find?
Maize Valley Market and Winery on Edison Street NE, just east of Hartville.
The CNN crew expected to find a heavy divide among Democrat and Republican voters here. Instead, Tamura said, they found “people focused on how are we going to get anything done” given the divided parties in Washington.
“I think people believe no one candidate is going to fix things,” she said.
A DIVERSE COUNTY
“Stark County has seen the worst of the recovery and the best of the recovery,” said CNN correspondent Miguel Marquez during the broadcast from Maize Valley, a roughly 700-acre winery, seasonal farm market and deli. Marquez said he found Stark County folks to be “a real mix of people getting on with their lives.
“There’s a subtle urgency here to fix things but no one knows what the recipe is,” he said. He said he learned that after spending time at Slesnick Iron & Metal, a recycling company on Third Street SE in Canton, and studying up on the Timken Co. — two businesses that, along with Maize Valley, have seen real growth in recent years.
Voters here seem to have a weak preference for one candidate or another, said Marquez, which may make this year’s presidential debates more important than ever.
Politics is not usually what Marquez covers as a reporter. He’s taking a more cultural look at what makes Ohio’s Stark County and counties in five other states — Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and Florida — pivotal.
Diversity is the key word in Stark County, Marquez has observed. He said the county represents a little bit of everything — urban, rural, suburban, rich, poor, university, agricultural and people of different races.
STRENGTH IN PEOPLE
“I didn’t appreciate how central Ohio is to the U.S. economy,” said Marquez, who noted the growth of some businesses and demise of others. “Hoover (Co.) goes out and Timken reinvents itself” and continues to grow and invest in the local economy and global marketplace.
Maize Valley also has reinvented itself. What started as a grain farm in the 1960s, later grew into a dairy farm of more than 1,000 acres, and now is a winery (farming 700 acres) and farm market operated by Bill Bakan with his wife, Michelle, and her parents, Kay and Donna Vaughan.
Page 2 of 2 - On the other side of Edison Street are three houses sitting on land the Vaughan family once farmed. When they lost the ability to farm that land, and dealt with other economic and agricultural changes, Maize Valley sought to diversify. Why? “Fear of starvation,” says Bakan. “We had to change or die.”
And that’s where Stark County’s strength is perhaps most visible — its people and their ability to adapt, reinvent and push through hard times.
“Ohio and Stark are No. 1 in few things but exceedingly above average in almost everything. That’s strength,” said Bakan, citing his own family’s business.
Bakan is a registered Republican, “but I hold my nose doing it,” he says.
“I’ll vote … regardless of who’s elected, we’ll be OK,” Bakan said, explaining that his business grew the last 12 years and the man in the White House had little to do with it.
“It isn’t up to that guy to do it; a lot of the responsibility is on you,” Bakan said.
Through the ages there have always been issues, from freedom and independence to jobs and health care. But the Constitution, says Bakan, is the foundation upon which America was built.
“I want a president that’s going to look at the Constitution, follow it, and honor all those who died defending it.”