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Pull Up a Stool at a Battleground Cafe: Colorado Voters Open Up

photos-2012-10-31-Brandy_Bauer_Frans.jpgBrandy Bauer is co-owner of Fran’s Cafe, where politics is on the menu. Photo by David Pelcyger.

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. || When Brandy Bauer talks about her regulars, she turns toward the U-shaped bar in the back of Fran’s Cafe, which she co-owns.

“The morning crew usually sits around the counter. They talk about politics and movies. Usually action movies with Angelina Jolie,” she says. Then she describes her customers and points to a stool in the right corner, closest to the front: “Jeff’s been coming in for 37 years, every single day.”

Jeff Greenwood always sits on the same stool and talks sports, weather, and occasionally politics with the other regulars at the bar. The St. Louis Cardinals are easily his favorite topic, but when it comes to politics, he likes President Barack Obama.

“I think he saved us from a depression. I really do. I like the fact he pushed health care,” he says.

Greenwood may not seem like the typical Obama voter. He is white, lives in the suburbs, and is retired from the oil business. He spent years working as a “land man,” responsible for arranging leases and related agreements with landowners and governments. Though he is officially “unaffiliated” (Colorado’s name for independent), he says he has never voted for a Republican for any office. Greenwood had some choice strong words for Republicans he knows, and sums them up this way: “They’re always ‘economy, economy, economy.'”

Bauer is used to conversations at the counter. “They always start off with: ‘That idiot.’ They’re all single men or widowers, most are low income, senior citizens. The women that come in don’t speak up. I don’t think they care to gripe. Usually the Republicans that come in sit in a booth. They sit there and smile.”

Alan Scherer is more of the listening type, but he takes his seat at the counter and offers his thoughts. “The whole country has a problem picking two candidates they don’t love. The really qualified people won’t run.” When asked why, he brings up the media’s intense scrutiny: “The only way you’ve never done anything bad in the world is if you’ve never done anything.”

“I’m not voting for the guy that’s in there now. I’m sure of that. How can you hire a guy that’s never signed the front of a paycheck?” Looking around the restaurant, he continues, “I know people here that will vote more out of party [affiliation] and less on issues.” He runs a sound and lighting production company and thinks that there may be some jobs that are not coming back.

“Back in the ’70s, I had friends who were making $16 an hour framing houses. Now, the same jobs make $8 an hour. Most kids don’t want to do that work, so they find someone who does. That was the middle class. Non-college educated workers. People think they can make a lot of money starting at the top. They don’t want to work.”

Bauer is one of those Americans who doesn’t love either candidate. “It’s the lesser of two evils. Which one is going to do less damage? Personally, I’ve heard what Romney says about small business,” she says.

Bauer worries about her customers, many of them senior citizens, and their Medicaid and Medicare. “If Romney is elected [higher medical costs] would force seniors back into the job market and there will be job discrimination. They need Medicare and Medicaid more than I need more tax breaks,” she says.

As with most political discussions at Fran’s, talk winds down and eventually turns back to food. And though politics is a hot topic these days, diners like Greenwood still just want to enjoy their meal. “I don’t want it to ruin my lunch,” he said.

Whether you like to talk politics or are more of a listener, Bauer has some advice: “Try the pork tenderloin.”

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