Bipartisan on a local level

Politics is just politics on Broadway

By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin / @hborrud

Published Nov 6, 2012 at 04:00AM

This fall, something new sprouted on the well-kept lawn in front of Rod Kohler's home on Northwest Broadway in Bend.

Kohler, 75, had been a Republican for years but never felt strongly enough about an election to put up political signs. Meanwhile, his neighbor Ken Cooper, 82, put out campaign signs for Democratic candidates in one election after another.

“Ken has always had signs up,” Kohler said. “This is the first time I've felt as strong about it.”

Although Cooper had signs in the past, he echoed Kohler's sentiment that this presidential election is especially important. “I really felt this time, it's a critical campaign,” Cooper said, as he stood in front of his house on Monday morning.

Kohler and Cooper said their different political views have not prevented them from being good friends. Neither man was eager to draw attention to his political views.

Cooper said their conversations sometimes touch on politics, but mostly they discuss common interests, such as where they went on vacation and their participation in the neighborhood association.

Both men were teachers before they retired: Cooper at local high schools and Kohler at Central Oregon Community College.

Cooper taught government at Bend High School, then at Mountain View High School. “So I've always been active with politics,” said Cooper, who retired 10 years ago. Kohler taught math at the community college for more than three decades.

Cooper said he and his wife, Muriel, are “very, very good friends” with Kohler and his wife, Norma. “When we're gone, he watches our place really well,” Cooper said.

Kohler likewise said the Coopers are “close friends” and the two couples eat dinner at each others' homes. The political signs pose “no problem for our relationship,” Kohler said. “We've got a cat, and when we leave town, Muriel usually feeds our cat,” Kohler said. “I said, 'If I put a Romney Ryan sign on our lawn, you'll still look after Nani?' And she says, 'Oh yeah.' I said it in humor, I know it wasn't a problem.”

“We usually don't talk politics, but I think we could without any problem,” Kohler said.

Both men cited specific reasons they support the Democratic and Republican presidential tickets.

Kohler said he will be “depressed and very disappointed if Barack wins the election.”

“I think it would be a big mistake to go another four years with Obama,” Kohler said. “I know they say all the problems are because we've inherited the problems, but I don't think we've made the progress in that time period we should have made.”

He said he was particularly disappointed at the amount of debt taken on by the federal government.

Cooper said that although he supports President Obama, Congress holds more responsibility for problems in Washington, D.C., than the executive branch. In particular, Cooper was upset when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in 2010 that the most important achievement for Republicans would be to make President Obama a one-term president.

“That was one of the biggest issues that bothered me,” Cooper said. “(Congress) is designed for political leaders to come together and solve the problems of the United States.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com