Loudoun County, Virginia is a closely contested swing county in an important swing state this presidential election. I talked with two long-time Loudoun residents about how the county went from reliably Republican, to a toss-up.
I met 79-year-old Bob Potts on the big front porch of his farm house. A bum knee is keeping Potts from milking his 85 cows. Potts owns Loudoun County’s last big dairy farm, near the town of Purcellville. Fifty years ago, the closest Purcellville came to a traffic jam was Saturday night.
He says, “You couldn’t drive thorough Purcellville because the town would be full of people walking on the sidewalks and down the middle of the street and everywhere else.”
Stanley Caulkins remembers those days. He’s 87. He’s owned a jewelry store in nearby Leesburg for 50 years. I ask Caulkins how Loudoun County went from a farming community, to what it is today -- a developer’s dream. With condos and new homes sprouting up all over the place. “We were a farming community," he says. "And when the developers came, we weren’t ready for it. And they offered farmers a lot of money and they sold their farm land.”
Caulkins remembers a time when those farmers were reliable Democrats. The Republican reign in Loudoun started in the 1950s when many crossed party lines to vote for Dwight Eisenhower. “Democrats put a great big sign up," says Caulkins. "It said Democrats for Ike.”
But in 2008, Loudoun County voted for President Obama. Caulkins says many of the county’s newcomers are registered Democrats. And Loudoun has the highest median income in the U.S. So, will voters give President Obama credit for the good times? Or will Democrats start parading around with Romney signs?
Caulkins says four years ago, everybody was talking politics. This year, not so much. “Everybody’s sorta going under the carpet," he says. "And you don’t know what’s going to happen this time around. Sitting at the lunch table nobody wants to talk about it or argue about it, you know.”
Back at the dairy farm, Bob Potts is also closed-mouthed about the election. He’s undecided and says he may not make up his mind until he steps into the voting booth.