Florida neighbors show signs of a divided 2020

By Diana Jordan

On the first Friday in October, Cheryl Tober tore open a long-awaited package. It contained a red, white and blue yard sign that she quickly placed on a strip of grass in front of her house. Now, any passerby would see “BIDEN” in large letters.

“I wasn’t afraid of showing my support for the right candidate,” said Tober, who works as a YMCA front desk attendant on Marco Island, a Republican stronghold in southwest Florida. 

At 63, Tober fits the island’s demographic profile; the average age is 60. Politically, she does not; Democrats make up just 35 percent of registered voters on the island, population 18,000.

“I knew people weren’t going to like it,” she said of her sign. And she was correct. 

The next morning, she left the house to walk her golden retriever and spotted a “TRUMP” sign that had been placed within inches of “BIDEN.” Tober called the police, but it soon became clear that both signs were on public property. There was nothing she could do except be “suspicious of all neighbors.”

After coming back from her second dog walk of the day, Tober greeted her neighbor, Sue Burt. “We had our usual friendly small chat until Cheryl mentioned how upset she was about the sign,” said Burt, 61, who volunteers at San Marco Catholic Church. 

Burt and her husband Joseph, a retired real estate agent, saw Tober’s sign not long after it went up, when they went out to dinner at the Snook Inn. “I immediately felt sick seeing that sign,” Burt said. She came up with the idea of pairing it with a Trump sign after drinking one of the restaurant’s famous Bloody Marys. 

Her husband told her it was a silly idea. However, Burt considered Tober a friend and didn’t see harm in a little political mischief. “It was all fun and games,” Burt said. “This is an island that supports Trump. … I didn’t mean to upset Cheryl.”

Burt offered an apology on Saturday, and Tober accepted it. Still, hurt feelings linger. These once-friendly neighbors now only say a few words to each other, the occasional “good morning” and “good night.” There are no more friendly chats.

“I miss talking to Cheryl, but I messed up,” Burt said. “I just feel strongly about Trump.”

Tober is digging in. “I am going to leave that sign there,” she said. “When Biden wins, I can feel good knowing I was in the right.”

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