You are here

UA for Kerry

Join UAPA as We Celebrate July 4th and Watch UA's Parade!

Waving American FlagUAPA got its start in 2004 as UA for Kerry, and it was at the Upper Arlington parade that year when the majority of the good citizens of our fair city learned of our existence -- some happily, some not. Come park your folding chair on the lawn where it all started at the home of John and Jane Hastie, located on the corner of Brandon Road and Northwest Boulevard.

About Us

Upper Arlington Progressive Action (UAPA) is a grassroots political action committee based in Upper Arlington, a conservative suburb of Columbus, Ohio. UAPA supports Democratic and progressive candidates and causes, and is entirely funded by donations from supporters. UAPA is run and governed solely by volunteers.
Upper Arlington Progressive Action gives Democratic and progressive voters an identity, voice and vehicle for action. UAPA members advocate for effective and efficient government that truly serves the needs of its people.

Associated Press 2008: Democrats target Ohio GOP suburban stronghold

Democrats target Ohio GOP suburban stronghold

EDITOR'S NOTE — What makes Ohio, the nation's seventh-largest state, a swing state? One in a series of regular stories profiling regions of Ohio and swing areas within the state.

Associated Press Writer

UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Democrats' display of support for John Kerry four years ago in this Republican stronghold ruffled more than a few community feathers.

Despite the efforts of the group UA for Kerry, President Bush beat his opponent handily. But Kerry also received a record number of votes for a Democrat in a city that just two decades ago was voting for Republican presidential candidates by 4-1 ratios.

Emboldened, the group has its sights set on the unthinkable this presidential election: turning a bright red town blue.

"My goal for Upper Arlington is for Obama to win, to get 51 percent," Melissa Hedden, a group founder, said flatly. "That would be my definition of success."

Ohio's mix of reliably Democratic big cities and just as reliably Republican suburbs has long contributed to the state's ability to predict presidential races so well. No Republican has won the White House without taking Ohio in more than a century and only two Democrats have done so.

But in recent years older suburbs such as Upper Arlington have become swing communities themselves, supporting a more even mix of voters as Democrats move in and some Republican voters settle in new suburbs even farther from city centers.

That's one reason why the "UA for Kerry" yard signs got so much attention. With their implication that Kerry had the entire city's support, they spurred a round of sign stealing and soul searching and invigorated the local Republican Party.

"We had people write checks saying, 'I'm sick of seeing their signs,'" recalled David Varda, treasurer of the Upper Arlington Republican Club and a former mayor.

This city of 31,000 is one of the original suburbs of Columbus and still one of its premier addresses. It's easy to see why, with its large houses, wide avenues and towering shade trees.

"It's a very classic old-school suburban community," said Tim Rankin, a lifelong resident and former city council member now running for the state Legislature. "Bright, astute, affluent."

Upper Arlington boasts three immaculate city pools, a high school with some of the state's highest test scores and public parks so well cared for that on one recent day two workers were carefully washing and sweeping the tennis courts.

The late Gov. Jim Rhodes, the nation's longest-serving governor, called Upper Arlington home. Golf great Jack Nicklaus was born and raised there. Legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes was a resident, as is the team's current coach, Jim Tressel. Ohio State is just around the corner, another selling point.

Per capita income in the overwhelmingly white city is about $42,000, twice the average of the state. Less than 3 percent of the population is below the federal poverty level.

The efforts of Democrats haven't gone unnoticed by Republicans, who in 2006 lost a legislative seat held by a local Republican. Rankin's candidacy is their most visible response, said Doug Preisse, the Franklin County Republican Party chairman.

Both he and Rankin dismiss the notion Upper Arlington will ever vote for Barack Obama. UA for Kerry benefited from a national groundswell of anti-Bush and anti-war sentiment that doesn't exist this time around, Rankin said.

Registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats 3,949 to 1,810 before the March primary, with more than 21,000 residents listed as unaffiliated, meaning they had asked for an issues only ballot in the last primary.

Not every Republican in town is so sure about November. Bill Pfeil, 67, a retired football, basketball and baseball coach, has lived in Upper Arlington for 35 years and supports John McCain.

He also believes Upper Arlington could go blue.

Obama's appeal to young voters is strong and people are still very concerned about the economy and the war.

"In this community there's probably a lot of people who are still waiting for Obama to start to make some specifics where people can hang their hats, and say, 'Yeah, this is the change that we're looking for.'"

The Obama campaign said in a statement it's committed to competing in all Ohio communities, including places that have traditionally voted Republican.

The local group is raising money for yard signs and bumper stickers, planning community meetings on topics such as the war and the economy and encouraging its supporters to help the Obama campaign.

Voting trends in the city may be on Obama's side. In 1976, the city gave President Ford 17,217 votes to Jimmy Carter's paltry 4,122. Ronald Reagan twice won by ratios of 4-1.

But by the 1990s, the vote was down to 2-1 in favor of the first President Bush and Bob Dole. Al Gore did even better in 2000, winning 36 percent of the vote — practically a landslide by Upper Arlington standards.

The city likely now has more independents, as people tire of partisan politics, said Priscilla Mead, a Republican and former mayor.

But as Mead also points out, the city likes things the way they are. If it had a motto, she says, it would probably be "No surprises."

In 2007, a proposal to privatize the city-run garbage department was met with rallies, threats of a ballot initiative and cries to oust the city council president.

The behavior of UA for Kerry didn't sit well with some in town either. Among the organization's alleged sins: hosting a yard party along the route of the city's Fourth of July parade, a hallowed event that's supposed to be a politics-free zone.

"You don't want to step outside the boundaries, and we did," said Pat Hadler, another of the group's founders. "We really went against the grain."

Although President Bush won with 57 percent of the vote, Kerry still received 8,152 votes, more than 2,000 more than Gore received just four years earlier.

In 2006, the city supported the losing GOP candidate in the U.S. Senate race but backed Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat. That support could have been an anomaly: Strickland was helped by a statewide wave of anger at Republicans over a corruption scandal.

Since 2004, UA for Kerry has evolved into Upper Arlington Progressive Action, a political action committee boasting a mailing list of 1,600. The group took the "progressive" label in the hopes of converting moderate Republicans to its cause.

The signs have changed to a less provocative "Another UA Citizen for Obama."

"To me it's more about reaching out to people," Hedden said. "We wanted to reach out to those people who might have shied away from confrontation with their neighbors or family members."

The group has come a long way since the day in March 2004 when Hedden followed a woman home who sported an anti-Bush sticker on her SUV, astounded she'd found a fellow Democrat in town. Hedden and her newly discovered ally, Susan Truitt, chatted politics, and Truitt eventually helped organize UA for Kerry.

Hedden is clear that just making a point isn't the goal this year. Forty-nine percent of the vote for Obama won't cut it.

"I want that 51," Hedden said.

Chicago Tribune 2004

UA News 2004: Suburbs' law director had daughter swipe Kerry sign

Upper Arlington News

August 8, 2004

By Aaron Marshall

[Scanned article image]

"It was a lapse in judgment": This makeshift sign replaces one Mitch Banchefsky drove off with last month.

A tip for the politically active: If you plan to yank someone else's election signs out of the ground, don't use a "sea foam" green SUV with a vanity plate as your getaway car.

A prominent Republican attorney, who works as the law director for both New Albany and Marble Cliff and also is a Dublin prosecutor, learned that lesson the hard way last month.

Mitch Banchefsky, a partner in the Columbus firm of Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn, has admitted to directing his daughter to take a "UA for John Kerry" sign from the side yard of Clearview Avenue resident Ann Boucher, according to a police report filed on the incident.

Driving his distinctive "sea foam" SUV with the license plate OLDTOYS, Banchefsky stopped in eastbound traffic on West North Broadway around noon on July 17, according to the report. A passenger then jumped out and took the sign, which sat between the road and a fence in Boucher's yard, the report said.

Banchefsky told the reporting officer, "Yes, I did tell my daughter to remove the sign," adding, "That was the only sign we stole," the report said.

During a brief interview Tuesday, Banchefsky called his role in the sign swiping "a lapse in judgment." He added that he believed the Kerry sign "was clearly in the public right-of-way" but acknowledged, "that is not the point."

"I should have called Columbus code enforcement and had them do it," he said. Banchefsky said he paid Boucher $10 to compensate her for the sign.

The Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn website said Banchefsky's practice focuses on municipal and governmental law, including "police issues" and "right-of-way ordinances."

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, said citizens shouldn't remove political signseven if they appear to be illegally placed in the public right-of-way.

"Signs are considered property of the campaign, and anyone not working on behalf of the correct municipality or Ohio Department of Transportation taking one down can be charged by the campaign for destruction of property," LoParo said.

Boucher, a Democratic central committee member, said the removal of her sign at the direction of a suburban official is troubling.

"Yeah, it's just a sign, but to me it's representing the foundation of this country," she said. "When you start denying people their right to speak up, where are we headed?"

Boucher said the yard sign, while outside of her fence line, is still on her property thanks to a quirk in her property deed.
Said Banchefsky: "I doubt that very much."

Boucher said she won't pursue criminal charges because she would have to press them against the younger Banchefsky and then charge her father as an accomplice.

Boucher said Banchefsky told her that his daughter is 13 years old. Banchefsky declined to discuss his daughter during his interview.

However, Boucher is planning to file an ethics complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel against the elder Banchefsky.

"The fact that he is a city attorney makes this a little bit different," she said. "He's sworn to uphold the law, so I thought disciplinary action would be more prudent."

Boucher said the sign she lost July 17 is just one of three that have come up missing in recent weeks. Early this week, she was displaying a homemade Kerry sign, made with a black trash bag as she waited for her fourth "UA for John Kerry" sign to arrive.

"If I don't have a sign of some kind up, I feel like they have won," she said.

DailyKos 2004: Ohio Suburbs, One Town's Inspiring Story

Ohio Suburbs, One Town's Inspiring Story

Wed Oct 20, 2004 at 09:45:47 AM PST

Upper Arlington is an upper class suburb of Columbus, Ohio, well known locally as a city of "wide lawns and narrow minds". "Uppity Arlington" as it is sometimes called outside the city borders, would realistically be described as a traditional, mostly white, fully Republican town of 34,000 with great schools and better real estate values! Walter O'Dell, CEO of Diebold has a residence here.

The two local issues on the ballot are: the School Levy (every 2-4 years like clockwork) and issue 65 which comes down to whether a developer can build 15 $700K homes on the last available development lot in the city or whether he must build 11 $1,000,000+ homes on the same acreage.

In previous Presidential Election cycles to see a sign supporting a democratic candidate would have been an anomaly. This year it's been quite different. Here's what happened . . .

Thanks Local Republicans for the Free Publicity

Organized early and by taking advantage of the new local political signage rules "UA For Kerry" began placing a few yard signs way back in July. The group of about 10 at the time had a large sign at the traditional 4th of July parade causing quite a stir in the local suburban newspapers. When a member of the mostly Republican City Council called it "uncivilized to have any political forum at our beloved parade when we should all be supporting our troops" the battle of Letters to the Editor was off and running. The Republican side of the opinions ranged from outrage at violating the "spirit of our city's traditional values" by having a "left wing political group using our parade for advertising for a political candidate whom Upper Arlington would never support" to passionate discussions of how the name "UA For Kerry" implied that everyone in Upper Arlington was for Kerry and that the city should take legal action immediately to stop it. A complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission filed in August by a UA resident, who called the name "inflammatory campaign literature," was dismissed

Outrage was everywhere. Several residents argued before City Council that the placement of yard signs so early in a campaign was illegal and that Council should order the signs taken down. Having historically never been seriously challenged by any local organized activism with a dissenting point of view, at first the mostly Republican City Council stumbled, appearing unaware that it was they themselves who had in fact passed a new city ordinance just two years before allowing the early placement of yard signs with political messages. At this point, there were about 100 yard signs up in Upper Arlington. All of them UA For Kerry! The Republicans hadn't even ordered any yard signs as yet.

As you might guess under these circumstances, the stealing of yard signs began early here. When a local GOP official who is a prominent attorney was caught having his 13-year-old daughter steal a UA For Kerry yard sign, the story was featured on Air America Radio for over a month with a link to the UA For Kerry website! The Columbus Dispatch reported about it in two stories, and a Columbus alternative paper wrote a three-page story about UA For Kerry. Sparked by all the free publicity, growth in requests for UA For Kerry yard signs far exceeded expectations. The group ran out on two occasions in August and a waiting list was set up to fill the constant backlog. By the end of the month there were probably 500 yard signs on display in our city and still 0 Bush Cheney.

City Councilman Gets "Involved"

The attacks on the group continued in the Letters to the Editor section of our local weekly. For the first time in memory, many residents would excitedly anticipate the Wednesday delivery of the paper to open it up and see what ridiculous charges and claims were being made.

That UA For Kerry was using the auditorium within the city Municipal Building for its weekly Guest Speaker Series was decried as a misuse of city property which should be stopped by the City Council. That UA For Kerry held a rally in a city park on a Sunday was also claimed by residents in their writings to be inappropriate use of public facilities. Another citizen wrote that it created a traffic danger due to all the cars parked on the streets surrounding the park and criticized the police for not taking "appropriate action".

Sign theft was rampant and debated hotly. When a Republican City Councilman wrote that UA for Kerry was "undermining the safety of the city by reporting frivolous things such as theft of signs", he appeared to be backed up by the Chief of Police, who stated in a news story that very week that the police would no longer take telephone reports of such matters, but that residents would have to come into police headquarters to fill out a report in person because it was taking to much of the department's time to deal with what was just a "teenage prank". The very next week, a respected resident who teaches at the OSU School of Law wrote in reply a passionate rebuttal to both, clearly outlining how such thefts violated Federal Statutes relating to Freedom of Speech, Civil Rights, and Election Laws and that the city could lose Federal Grants and other money if the matter was not taken seriously.

The Councilman responded right back the next week in the paper, by announcing the newly formed UA Republican Club and stated that Bush Cheney yard signs were now available to any resident for free (relying totally upon donations, UA For Kerry had to "sell" their signs for display asking for a $10 donation) and that if they were stolen they would be replaced for free without the need for police involvement. In his published letter he said, now that the Bush Cheney signs were in and available "the front lawns around our city would be cleaned up and looking much better than they had in the last two months." How ironic that this "club" was later instructed to remove the city's logo from its' website by the city attorney after an organized protest by UA for Kerry advocates.

Where We are Today

Today, Upper Arlington has literally thousands of yard signs on display. Far more than I have ever seen in a Presidential race. Just by count while driving, I would estimate that they perhaps total close to 5,000 and run 4 BC to 3 UA For Kerry (update 10/28 Now 1 to 1). If my memory serves me well, in 2000 I would put this ratio at 50 Bush to 1 Gore with the total number of signs less than 1500 which says something about the interest level in this Presidential election here.

The local fighting back and forth has died down. One could say the for Kerry side has "won". I don't mean that the vote count coming out of Upper Arlington will necessarily total more for Kerry Edwards than Bush Cheney, but certainly this year it won't be a Republican landslide as in years past and it maybe very close. But while this is a story about yard signs and votes, it's even more a story about finding that there are others who think and believe like you, but have been reluctant to express that openly for fear of being ostracized. This ever growing group of friends and neighbors we discovered through UA For Kerry are very energized with numerous citizens working with the local ACT office and other groups to GOTV in UA and throughout the Central Ohio area.

It's been fun! It's been exciting! The UA For Kerry group sparked numerous similar groups in suburbs throughout Columbus. A subgroup called Students for Kerry was also formed along with a local Women for Kerry group. Participation in the protest of Sinclair Broadcasting and its advertisers (including picketing at one of the two local Sinclair stations) is still being carried out. This Friday evening there will be a free showing of Going Up River while Sinclair carries out its Swift Boat Liars extended commercial. People are excited, people are working, people are involved!

We KNOW we're going to bring Ohio home for John Kerry and John Edwards!

And to think it all started because one woman with no political experience stopped to talk to another woman with no political experience after she saw an X'ed out "W" sticker on a car last June!


Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer