PRESCOTT – Dan Lohmeier has only lived in Prescott since July. He moved from Austin, Texas, to this northern Arizona town for specific reasons.
“I could have chosen to live anywhere I wanted, and this was the place I wanted to be,” said Lohmeier, who co-owns Far From Folsom, a Johnny Cash-themed bar and restaurant on Whiskey Row.
He liked that the area has plenty of outdoor spaces, that national forests surround the city, that people can still discover artifacts hidden in this frontier town.
“This place is almost like a time capsule,” Lohmeier said.
The town’s historic charm, he said, serves as a “parallel to the political mindedness here.”
Prescott, the county seat for Yavapai County, is a Republican stronghold. Sixty-four percent of the county voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the last general election, according to an 2012 election report from Yavapai County.
At the Prescott Resort on Tuesday night, the crowd cheered, danced and high-fived one another as the presidential election results began rolling in, showing Republican nominee Donald Trump in the lead in several states.
The crowd at the Yavapai County Republican Committee’s watch party was more subdued as officials released early results for Arizona, but one voter remained optimistic.
“So far, it’s pretty promising to the Republicans,” Donald Packard said. “He’ll take Prescott for sure, no sweat there.”
Yavapai County has supported Trump since early in the campaign season. In the state’s March presidential primary, nearly 70 percent of Republicans turned out. More than half of the voters – about 18,000 – voted for Trump over the 13 other candidates, according to Yavapai County.
Around town, Trump/Pence signs line the front yards of large, lavish homes. Cars with “Hillary for Prison!” and “You Can’t Trump This!” stickers zoom around town.
Trump visited nearby Prescott Valley in October as part of an effort to secure this deep-red part of Arizona – especially as polls had indicated a much more purple state than previous election cycles.
Lohmeier, a Libertarian, said the Prescott area is solidly Republican. Even Democrats acknowledge the conservative ideology in the area.
Lindsay Bell, chairwoman of the Yavapai County Arizona Democratic Party, predicted Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wouldn’t win the county, but she hoped her office’s efforts would change the margin between Trump and Clinton and turn out enough votes for Clinton that she carries the state.
Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-to-1 in voter registration in the county, said Mark Sensmeier, chairman of the Yavapai County Republican Committee.
“The Trump campaign’s counting on Yavapai County to show up pretty strong to offset parts of the state where they’re not doing quite as well,” Sensmeier said.
Regardless of political party, Yavapai County has the highest rate of turnout of any county in state, projected at 80 to 82 percent, Bell said.
“We vote here,” Bell said. “We vote in municipal elections. We vote in midterm elections. We vote in presidential elections.”
Polling places on Tuesday had steady streams of people, and the Recorder’s Office had a line that continued to grow throughout the day.
Mary Beth Hrin, who had been at the Yavapai Community Center since early morning, said at least 100 people were in line at 6 a.m. The Recorder’s Office told her at least 2,000 people per hour were coming in and out to vote throughout the county.
Although there were no protests, Khristy Kelly, who voted at the Recorder’s Office, did see some aggression toward poll workers when she voted about 4 p.m.
It took Kelly 40 minutes to vote, she said at the Prescott Gateway Mall, where she was waiting for her sister-in-law to vote. Had she known of the polling place at the mall, she said she would have gone to that one.
At the Yavapai Community Center, computers shut down for about 35 minutes in the afternoon. Those who had their early ballots in hand were able to vote, but voters who went to vote without a ballot Tuesday were frustrated to the point of leaving.
Joshua Aten, who waited for 20 minutes, was one of them. Aten wasn’t sure how long he would be able to stay, so he headed down to the Trinity Presbyterian Church, which was closer to his house anyway, to cast his vote.
Prior to Tuesday’s election, Gary Mortimer, 48, farmer and rancher at Mortimer Farms, said he would go to the polls in person to cast his vote.
“It’s always been an important thing for me, to be able to go on Election Day,” Mortimer said. “We’ve taken the kids from the time they were just babies because it’s an important right that we have.”
Gary and Sharla Mortimer and their four children run Mortimer Farms in Dewey.
Mortimer harvests three farms, all within a 20-mile radius, producing corn, pumpkins and vegetables sold through the farm’s country store, as well as beef, pork, chicken and turkey.
As a rancher, Mortimer said he must keep in mind the farm’s relationship with the state and federal government, since he leases land to raise cattle. He’s also concerned about water rights, personal property rights and protecting the land.
He said he planned to vote for Trump because of his ability to implement policies for the future.
“We need to protect what we’re doing as a community,” he said. “We need to not only look for what’s best in the immediate term, but what’s best for society.”
Prescott, founded in 1864, was formerly the Territorial Capital of Arizona. Nearly 40,000 people live there, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Because Prescott is heavily Republican, Bell said Democrats are often asked why the party puts in so much effort into getting votes.
At least 120 volunteers worked on the campaigns, going door to door, canvassing and phone banking from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, for the past three to four weeks. The team is the “largest effort we’ve ever had,” Bell said.
“It’s always an uphill battle,” said Bell, who has lived in Prescott for about 45 years. “But this is my home, too. And this is where I live. This is where my kids were born, where my grandchildren are being raised. I’m not leaving, I’m making my stand here.”