Ohio has a knack at choosing presidential candidates. In a nation where so many states swing only one way - blue or red - Ohio has shown the ability to temporarily turn purple.
So every four years, Ohioans can expect to see their share of presidential candidates stumping through their towns - to win over voters at county fairs, chicken barbecues, school rallies or town festivals.
Ohio has been a fierce battleground in recent presidential elections. Part of the reason is the state’s number of electoral votes, currently at 18. Then there’s also the state’s history of picking winners.
Since 1944, Ohioans have sided with the losing candidate only once – opting for Nixon over Kennedy in 1960.
Wood County, Ohio, with its population of about 130,000, has voted for the winner in 23 of the last 29 presidential elections. With Bowling Green as its county seat and home to a state university, Wood County represents both the conservative views of rural America and the more liberal views of a college town.
That combination brings presidential candidates through the region multiple times each election season. The swing between Republican and Democratic, and its ability to take on a purple hue, makes Ohio a must-visit for candidates.
The bellwether status for Ohio has created a push for initiatives like early voting, getting out the youth vote. It has also resulted in the birth of a few 15-second “celebrities” like “Joe the Plumber,” who briefly become bigger than life when inflated by campaign machines - only to be deflated back to their normal status after the election is over.
Jan Larson McLaughlin, Bowling Green Independent News
"The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy - the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities - which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means."
- Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States
As a first-generation Asian-American, and a child of Chinese immigrants who came to this country to escape persecution and start anew, I've always had an interest in foreign policy, diplomacy, and governance.
Naturally, I gravitated towards politics and elections from a young age — campaigning for class president and seeking leadership positions throughout my years of schooling. Granted, I wasn't the best leader, nor was I a king of speeches, but those experiences made me a better person and taught me much about the importance of leadership.
I often joke that had I not become a photojournalist (and now a designer), I would have become a diplomat on a mission to create more bridges between China and the United States and to broaden perspectives on both sides.
This collection of work spans nearly a decade and unites that passion for politics and my ambitions as a young photojournalist.
It is not only a historical record of high profile visits and a story of Northwest Ohio's status in the election process, but also a visual progression of my growth as a photojournalist.
It is a resolute story of our democratic process, told from both sides — from both extremes — and a memory of American politics as it was.
Much love to the many friends, family, and colleagues who have helped me over the past three years to make this collection a reality. Thanks for all of your support and feedback.
Thanks to BG News (Falcon Media) and the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune. Without either newspaper, I would not have had these opportunities. Thanks to Bob Bortel for giving us the freedom to form the A-Team of student journalists on the election beat. Also, thanks to JD Pooley for bringing me on as a staffer at the Sentinel where I ended up spending 7 years as a photojournalist.
Lastly, many thanks to Jan Larson McLaughlin, my former editor, for the foreward and for many years of support.
Enoch Wu — May 29, 2019