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Rafer Johnson, winner of a memorable decathlon, is dead

Rafer Johnson, who carried the American flag at the Olympic Stadium in Rome in August 1960 as the first black captain of a United States Olympic team and won gold in a memorable decathlon duel, which earned him to be recognized as the world’s greatest all-rounder, died Wednesday at his home in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles.

Family friend Michael Roth confirmed the death to The Associated Press. No cause was given. Sources differ depending on whether Johnson was 85 or 86.

Johnson never competed after this decathlon triumph. He became a United States Goodwill Ambassador and close associate of the Kennedy family, assuming a leadership role in the Special Olympics, which was championed by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and joining the entourage of Robert F. Kennedy during Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968. He is best remembered for helping to fight the senator’s assassin in Los Angeles in 1968.

Johnson’s national profile was largely modeled at the 1960 Olympics, one of the most celebrated in Games history, a time when a host of African-American athletes triumphantly burst onto the world stage. Muhammad Ali, known at the time as Cassius Clay, won boxing gold in the lightweight division. Wilma Rudolph took victory in the women’s 100 and 200 meters and combined with her teammates from Tennessee State for the gold in the 4×100 relay. Oscar Robertson assisted the United States basketball team to win a gold medal.

Johnson’s narrow decathlon victory over CK Yang of Taiwan and good friend UCLA was an exciting moment in its own right.

Johnson, a 25-year-old UCLA graduate and a 6-foot-3, 200-pound chisel, was the favorite for the two-day decathlon, a 10-event test of versatility, strength, speed and endurance which included sprints, high hurdles, pole vault, high jump and width jump, javelin and discus throw, and 1,500 meter run.

He had won the silver medal in the decathlon at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, finishing behind Milt Campbell of the United States, who then turned to professional football. He had beaten Vasily Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union in a meeting at the Lenin Stadium in Moscow in 1958, inspiring spectators to put Cold War issues aside and applaud his achievement. And he scored a world record of 8,683 points in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympic track trials in Oregon.

But he faced a tall order in Rome from Yang, 27, who represented Formosa, the Olympic designation at the time for Taiwanese athletes. Both were trained by Elvin Drake, known as Ducky, the UCLA track coach.

The decathlon duel was decided in his last event, the 1500 meters, in which Yang was particularly strong. Johnson, leading in points, didn’t have to win the event to win the gold, but had to finish within 10 seconds of Yang.

“I had planned to stay with him as a buddy in combat,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “I had another advantage, and I don’t think CK knew it at the time. It was my last decathlon. I was ready to run as fast as needed in this last race of my life.

Yang, who died in 2007, recalls: “I knew he would never let go if he didn’t collapse. Johnson finished 1.2 seconds behind Yang, good enough to win gold, Yang taking silver and Kuznetsov taking bronze.

Johnson went on to receive the 1960 Sullivan Prize as America’s leading amateur athlete. After that, he embarked on new chapters in his life.

He met Robert Kennedy at an awards ceremony shortly after the Rome Games and was part of the senator’s campaign for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination.

He was escorting a pregnant Ethel Kennedy through a crowd of supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968 – moments after her husband won the California Democratic Primary – when Kennedy was fatally shot by Sirhan Sirhan , a Palestinian immigrant. who had been angry with Kennedy for his support of Israel.

Johnson and compatriot Roosevelt Grier, the former Los Angeles Giants and Rams star defensive tackle, helped subdue Sirhan.

“My hand gripped the gun,” Johnson recalled in his memoir, “The Best That I Can Be” (1998, with Philip Goldberg). “Rosey’s hand fell on mine. With a dozen more pushing and pushing, we forced Sirhan onto a steam table, then down to the ground. I twisted Sirhan’s fingers to release the weapon.

Rafer Lewis Johnson was born August 18, 1934 or 1935 in Hillsboro, Texas, south of Dallas. His family briefly lived in Dallas, then escaped segregation by moving to the town of Kingsburg in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley of California, where his father, Lewis, had a job in food processing.

Johnson excelled in football, basketball and baseball as well as track and field in high school, but he focused on the decathlon, inspired by seeing Olympic gold medalist Bob Mathias in action in Tulare, Calif. .

He entered UCLA in 1954 and played for renowned coach John Wooden’s basketball team there while training for the decathlons. He also became president of the student body.

With his Olympic triumph behind him, Johnson visited many countries in the early 1960s as the State Department’s Goodwill Ambassador. He has appeared in television shows and in Hollywood films, including “Wild in the Country” (1961) with Elvis Presley and Tuesday Weld. He was also a sports host in Los Angeles.

In 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a driving force in creating the Special Olympics for people with intellectual and physical disabilities, drew Johnson into the organization. He became one of the founders of its Southern California chapter and was later named president. He also did promotional work for Hershey, Reebok and other companies.

Johnson and his wife, Elizabeth, had two children, Josh and Jennifer-Johnson-Jordan, who was a member of the US women’s beach volleyball team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her brother, Jim, was a running back. corner for the San Francisco 49ers and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Complete information on the survivors was not immediately available.

Johnson’s last moment in the Olympic spotlight came when he climbed the precarious 99 steps of the Los Angeles Coliseum to light the 1984 Games cauldron.

“I was, in a sense, an Olympian again, preparing myself to want to do something exceptional,” he wrote in his memoir. “Was I afraid of getting to the top of the stairs?” Yes. Was I wondering if I might trip or fall? Yes. Did I have the slightest doubt that I would pass? No.”

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There is another second round in Georgia and the winner gets a month in Congress

ATLANTA – Kwanza Hall and Robert M. Franklin Jr. have campaigned for months, planting signs in the grassy medians along Atlanta’s busy highways and on the windows of popular brunch spots.

They handed out hand sanitizer, met the Omega Psi Phi men, and argued vigorously with each other. During a live chat, they delved into ambitious ideas to overcome intractable problems – limited access to health care, inequalities in the criminal justice system, and infringements of the right to vote.

Politics have consumed much of Georgia in recent weeks. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the state – a feat no Democrat had achieved for nearly three decades, and another confirmed by a manual audit of the ballots – and two rounds of the ballot in high stakes in January will determine which party controls the Senate.

Well that’s the other second round, especially notable for the short round the winner will have in Congress. Very short. All in all, not even a month in the House.

A set of special circumstances created a contest with stakes that couldn’t be much lower. Mr Hall and Dr Franklin, both Democrats, vie for a run-off Tuesday in a reliable Democratic district for a term that ends at noon on Jan.3. And there is no chance of overtime for the winner, like his successor was. elected this month.

Still, the candidates argued that their offers were anything but inconsequential. The winner will serve in what would have been the last days of John Lewis’ 17th term representing Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. Mr Lewis, the pioneering civil rights leader, died on July 17.

“These are the days he won,” Dr. Franklin, a scholar and former president of Morehouse College, said in front of a library before voting. “For me, it’s honor and privilege.”

Dr Franklin and Mr Hall, a former Atlanta city councilor, qualified for a runoff after a special election in September, coming out of a mixed group comprising five Democrats, one Independent and one Libertarian.

“It matters to me,” Hall said, “because we haven’t had any performances since July 17.”

The neighborhood, which encompasses parts of Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs, is an economic and cultural hub that has long drawn South African Americans with opportunities for upward mobility and relief from the burdens of racial hostility in the places they left behind.

But it’s also an area that has been reminded of how far Atlanta’s aspirations for the promise have fallen short of reality.

Gentrification spread quickly, driving out longtime black residents. And in June, Rayshard Brooks, an African-American man, was killed by a city policeman, sparking protests that became tense and violent and stressed that, despite its reputation, Atlanta was anything but immune from pernicious consequences. and enduring of the breed. inequality.

After Mr Lewis’ death, Democratic Party officials had to rush to meet a deadline to replace his name on the November ballot, call for nominations and land on Nikema Williams, a state senator.

Party officials did give Ms. Williams a ticket to Congress. Mr Lewis, a Democrat, had won all but one of his re-election proposals with over 70% of the vote. Ms Williams won 85% of the vote and she was previously elected president of the New Class of Democrats.

Mr Hall and Dr Franklin are involved in a separate process that began when Governor Brian Kemp called for a special election for the remainder of Mr Lewis’ term. Ms Williams declined to participate and no candidate crossed the 50% mark in the September election, forcing the second round. (Just over 31,000 people voted.)

The campaign can seem like a confusing endeavor. Only the interval between the special election and Tuesday’s second round is more than twice as long as the winner’s time in Congress.

Despite this, the candidates made serious investments in time and money. They won the approval of elected officials, activists and local business leaders. While the donations are a far cry from the stupendous sums that the stormy Senate races have brought in, they have amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars among themselves.

Dr Franklin hired a staff of eight and maintained a regular schedule of virtual events, such as joining a gathering of interfaith leaders.

Mr. Hall led a lean operation. He is his own director of communications. The phone number displayed on his campaign’s Facebook page rings on his cell phone.

He keeps his face covered and traded handshakes for elbow bumps during the pandemic, but he still prefers to beat the pavement. “I’m showing up to Congress,” he said one person after another as he handed out flyers in a mall.

The two men have noble notions of what they could accomplish in office.

Dr. Franklin sees a bully chair, a platform for him as a minister and professor of moral leadership at Emory University to deliver a message of clarity in a time of turbulence. And what would be his last day in office, a Sunday, he said, he would walk away with a blessing for Mr Lewis and his work.

Mr Hall plans to go out with an aggressive agenda: working to decriminalize marijuana, clear the records of formerly incarcerated people, create economic opportunities.

“I can do the equivalent of what I’ve done in 15 years – I can do it in 15 days,” he said, referring to his years on Atlanta city council. “I know what not to waste my time on. I know how to be efficient. “

The history of Congress is dotted with members whose terms were best measured in days. For the most part, all the achievements recorded by history were largely symbolic.

In fact, the first woman to serve in the Senate came from Georgia: Rebecca Latimer Felton, an 87-year-old writer and activist who was appointed in 1922 after the death of her predecessor, once served and gave a speech. In it, she shared her vision of a Senate where more women would serve: “You will gain skills, you will gain the integrity of your goals, you will gain exalted patriotism, and you will gain unwavering utility.”

In all likelihood, Mr. Hall or Mr. Franklin’s experience will be less or less productive: votes on some important legislation, including government funding bills, and opportunities to speak in the House .

“It’s going to be difficult to do anything in a short period of time, especially in this short period of time,” said Michael Crespin, director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of the Oklahoma.

There is no lack of attention to Georgian politics at the moment, but this campaign was unlikely to compete with the recounted ballots, the Senate run-off, intra-partisan feuds between Georgia Republicans and a Democrat taking the state in a presidential race for the first time. since 1992.

It doesn’t help that the campaign is part of a tangle of proceedings after Mr Lewis’ death that left voters confused.

Mr. Lewis had an almost singular presence in Atlanta, embraced as a link to connect a new generation of Black Lives Matter activists to the civil rights movement that was rooted in the city.

Mr Hall, 49, said he was well placed to carry on that legacy even though he believed he was done with politics. His last campaign was a failed mayoral bid in 2017. He turned to business, working in economic development and consulting.

But around the time of Mr Lewis’ death, a coronavirus diagnosis confined Mr Hall to his bed and forced him to consider the future.

Recently, as he joined volunteers to pack boxes of hand sanitizer and canned goods, he leafed through photos on his phone. They were yellowed photos of his father, Leon W. Hall, a civil rights activist and one of the youngest lieutenants of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In one, her father kissed Mr. Lewis. Another made him cry; it showed that his father was being dragged by a police officer during a demonstration. These photographs provided the boost he needed. “You are exactly where you are supposed to be,” he says.

Dr Franklin, 66, said he was waiting to see who else might come forward, such as Shirley Franklin, the former mayor of Atlanta, or Andrew Young, who was in the seat before Mr Lewis and who had also been mayor.

“OK,” he decided, “I have to offer my leadership.”

Whatever the outcome, he said, the campaign could be the prelude to a new chapter in elected office or perhaps ambassadorial office.

“I am by no means up to the task,” he said, trying to fill the void left by Mr Lewis, “but I think I could contribute something, even if not only for two weeks. “

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Biden makes gains in key states as Anxious Nation awaits winner

Joseph R. Biden Jr. gained ground in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia on Thursday, as the slow vote count in those contested battlefield states brought him closer to capturing an electoral majority and the defeat of President Trump.

As an anxious country waited to know the winner, the two candidates emerged towards the end of the day to make remarks drastically different in tone and content.

During a brief appearance to reporters in Wilmington, Del., Mr Biden said he remained convinced he would win in the end, but did not claim the White House.

“Democracy can be messy at times,” said Biden, who held the lead in Arizona Thursday night but lost ground there. “It also sometimes takes a little patience. But this patience has now been rewarded for more than 240 years with a system of governance that is the envy of the world.

He called for calm and stressed that “every ballot must be counted”.

Hours later, during a stunning appearance in the White House briefing room, Mr. Trump lied about the counting underway in several states, citing a conspiracy of “legal” and “illegal” ballots being tabulated and claiming without proof that states were trying to deny him his re-election.

“They’re trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election,” the president said from the White House briefing room. He also suggested unfounded bad behavior in Philadelphia and Detroit, cities he called “two of the most corrupt political places.”

Mr. Trump’s remarks, mostly read from the notes, were at times more empowering than provocative. Far from insisting he would stay in power, he used much of his appearance to complain about pre-election polls, demonize the news media and try to put the best face on the results. Tuesday, touting his party’s Congressional gains. He did not answer journalists’ questions.

For all of his complaints, Mr. Trump has only himself and his own party to blame for the delayed vote count in a number of states.

State and local Republican authorities have refused to let localities count postal votes until Tuesday in some states. And because of Mr. Trump’s months-long attacks on mail-in ballots, more Democrats than Republicans voted this way, allowing Mr. Biden to garner the bulk of the votes by mail.

In his speech, Mr. Trump expressed no concerns about the extended vote count in Arizona, a state where he cut Mr. Biden ahead of time as more ballots were compiled.

Republican leaders offered no immediate response to Mr. Trump’s remarks, but a small group of maverick party lawmakers denounced his comments, seeking to reassure voters that there was no reason to believe the integrity of the election had been compromised.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and frequent critic of Mr. Trump, offered the sharpest rebuke, saying “this is getting insane” and demanding that the president stop “spreading debunked false information.”

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and adviser to Mr. Trump, told ABC that “we haven’t heard of any evidence today,” adding the president’s actions: “Anything he in fact, it is ignited without informing.

Yet there were also Republican lawmakers who rushed to Mr. Trump’s defense, siding with him in mistakenly claiming that the count was illegal and that Democrats were trying to cheat.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called Mr. Trump’s allegations that ballots were mismanaged in Pennsylvania “shocking” and told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that ‘he planned to donate $ 500,000 to the president’s legal defense. funds.

“They’re just trying to get a result – damn the law, damn the result,” Graham said of Democrats.

As the world watched to see if one of the most unusual presidencies in the country’s history came to an end, the patchwork of U.S. election laws created a confusing and agonizing day for both parties, not to mention millions of people. Americans eager to end the campaign.

Mr Biden’s advantage in Arizona, a state the Associated Press has previously called for naming the former vice president, narrowed as thousands of votes were compiled. But in Georgia and Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump saw his first advantage dwindle as the postal ballots were counted.

Until Mr Trump’s remarks Thursday night, he had not appeared in public since he used an appearance in the middle of the night on Wednesday to insist he had already won. But he did post angry Twitter messages, and he continued to do so on Thursday.

“All of the states recently claimed by Biden will be legally challenged by us for voter fraud and state voter fraud,” he said in a post, without specifying exactly what that would imply. “STOP THE ACCOUNT!” he exclaimed in another tweet.

Chasing the president, Twitter called some of the posts “contested” and said they “could be misleading about an election or other civic process.”

In any event, stopping the tally now would only ensure Mr. Biden wins the presidency, as he leads Arizona and Nevada – states that together would give him 270 electoral votes.

The presidential contest was not the only close race to garner attention. A key Georgian Senate race that could decide the house majority has drawn even closer as Senator David Perdue, a Republican, saw his share of the vote drop by less than 50% in his race against Jon Ossoff, a democrat. If neither wins a majority, the race would head to a second round in January, opening up the prospect of a hotly contested battle for two Senate seats in Georgia. A second round is already planned during the special election for the other seat of the state.

On Thursday, an array of Mr. Trump’s political surrogates were deployed to some of the contested states to rally his supporters. And lawyers for the president have filed lawsuits in several states to question the integrity of the vote count in hopes of slowing the process.

He suffered two legal setbacks Thursday when judges in Georgia and Michigan ruled against his campaign. But Mr Trump snagged a small victory in Pennsylvania when a state appeals court granted his demand to force Philadelphia election officials to grant his election observers better access to areas where workers strip workers. bulletins.

With the tally moving slowly in the West, much of Thursday’s attention fell on Pennsylvania, where a victory would give Mr. Biden the presidency, regardless of the outcome in the other states. The state’s senior electoral official said Thursday evening that counties “still count” and offered no timeline for the count.

Mr. Trump’s lead in the state, roughly 26,000 votes at 10:50 p.m. EST, was diminishing as postal ballots were counted in heavily democratic towns and suburbs.

Both parties held dueling press conferences in Philadelphia earlier in the day, with supporters of Mr. Trump insisting his leadership would be maintained statewide and the city’s Democrats, led by the former depicting Robert A. Brady, unveiling an analysis of the remaining vote count that concluded Mr. Biden would win Pennsylvania convincingly.

In Georgia, the counting of ballots in many counties continued to erode Mr. Trump’s advantage in the traditionally Republican state: Thursday night he led with about 1,800 votes out of nearly five million votes.

Tens of thousands of ballots remained to be counted in the state at the end of the day, many in Chatham County, a Democratic-leaning county along the Georgia coast that is home to Savannah, and thousands more in counties in the Atlanta area that are also skinny Democratic.

The Georgia Republican Party has announced plans to bring up to a dozen lawsuits in the state.

In Arizona, Mr. Biden’s lead was reduced to about 46,000 votes, far less than on election night. There are over two hundred thousand ballots left to count, many of which are from Maricopa County in Phoenix.

Maricopa officials said they would release another report on Friday morning.

“We’re plugging in and making it happen,” said Adrian Fontes, the Democrat who oversees the county elections.

The vote count in Maricopa has, however, become strained since several armed protesters showed up at the county office on Wednesday evening. On Thursday afternoon, about 200 Mr. Trump’s supporters also gathered outside the Arizona Republican Party headquarters after a protest earlier in the day involving some 50 dissipated Trump supporters outside Phoenix City Hall.

Some in the crowd held up “Don’t Steal Elections”, “Shame on Fox News” and “Recall Fontes” signs. (Fox News called Arizona for Mr. Biden on Tuesday night, inflaming Trump supporters.)

Mr Biden led by just over 11,000 votes in Nevada, but local Las Vegas officials said Thursday that 51,000 Clark County ballots were counted and would be announced on Friday. Mr. Biden was winning the county by about eight percentage points. If he wins the bulk of the new votes, it would be nearly impossible for Mr. Trump to take over the state, as around 70% of Nevada voters live in Clark County.

As part of efforts to cast doubt on the state’s election, Mr. Trump’s Nevada state director on Thursday sent supporters a letter asking them to “get on camera / on file with the problems they faced when voting this election “to” outline the problems we see in polling stations / clerks. “

For its part, both publicly and privately, the Biden campaign spent much of Thursday trying to squeeze expectations about the certainty of results in individual states, even as his supporters were at their wit’s end when the margins turned out. much closer than many had expected.

In a briefing with reporters, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr Biden’s campaign manager, acknowledged that his tracks in Arizona and Nevada could tighten or fluctuate in some other way. It was a departure from her position the day before when she spoke of a “historic victory in a place like Arizona”, although she always expressed optimism about wins in both states.

“We expect, as in Nevada, that part of the margin will continue to close today,” she said of Arizona, a state she has been focusing on for months. “The Arizona story is one that Joe Biden is going to win in, but it’s going to take our time and patience as we count down.”

“Today’s story,” she said at another point, “is going to be a very positive story for the vice president, but also a story where people are going to have to be patient and be calm.

Reporting was provided by Catie Edmondson in Washington, Nick Corasaniti in Philadelphia, Richard Fausset in Atlanta and Jennifer Medina and Simon Romero in Phoenix.

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In critical Wisconsin, Fox Valley can decide state winner

LITTLE CHUTE, Wisconsin. – The 12,000 residents of this village 24 miles south of Green Bay supported Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016. But in 2018 they made a narrow split decision – a margin of 461 votes for Gov. Scott Walker , a conservative Republican and a 132-vote advantage for Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Liberal Democrat.

Surrounded by former stationery towns, Little Chute sits in the heart of Fox Valley, a three-county stretch from Green Bay to Oshkosh, the most politically competitive region in one of America’s major battlefield states. .

Democrats tend to focus their campaigns in Wisconsin on mobilizing voters in the liberal cities of Milwaukee and Madison, while Republicans focus on the conservative suburbs that ring Milwaukee. But it’s often the Fox Valley where statewide elections are won or lost.

And this year there is a new wildcard, the coronavirus, which is rampant in Fox Valley, with a new number of cases averaging nearly 600 per day.

The three counties – Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago – all backed Mr. Obama in 2008, and two of the three narrowly picked Mitt Romney in 2012 before all backing Mr. Trump four years later. But like Little Chute, in 2018 all three counties backed Mr Walker, who narrowly lost his candidacy for a third term as governor, and Ms Baldwin, who was re-elected to the Senate.

“It’s a purple region in a purple state, and the purple regions oscillate with the times,” said Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a Republican from Oshkosh.

The combination of former industrial towns and rural voters who migrated to the Republican Party, with college towns and small towns becoming more democratic and Catholic voters inclined to support Democrats as long as they are not too adamant abortion rights has made the region, comprising the third, fifth and sixth largest counties in the state, the ultimate presidential battleground.

It is the seat of the John Birch Society and the birthplace of McCarthyism – Senator Joseph McCarthy was born in Grand Chute – but he worships Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the foremost activists for the social justice of the NFL.

It is also an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Wisconsin. All three counties have new virus case counts that exceed the state average for last week. Of the 15 cities with the country’s worst coronavirus epidemics, eight are in Wisconsin and five – Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Manitowoc and Oshkosh – are in the greater Fox Valley. And it can change the political equation in an area that is usually not motivated by national issues.

“There is, I think, a sense of hopelessness about how we are going to survive,” said Amanda Stuck, the Democratic House candidate for Appleton. “We have to go back to work. But at the same time, we see stories every day about the capacity of our hospitals, and we don’t know what we’re going to do here if the beds keep filling up.

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Interviews with voters in the region revealed an unusual number of people who played table tennis between parties during election years – and sometimes on the same ballot.

David Werley, a Green Bay lawyer, voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, Mr. Romney in 2012 and libertarian Gary Johnson in 2016. On Wednesday afternoon, he cast a marked ballot for the former deputy. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in a drop box outside Green Bay City Hall.

“I am a true independent voter,” said Werley, 34. “I’m really looking at the person. I check if they are genuine or not. “

Mr Werley said there were few issues motivating his allegiance at the polls. Instead, it focuses on being able to trust a candidate.

“I liked Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders,” he said of the Republican Socialist and Arch-Conservative Democrat. “They’ve been saying the same thing forever. I like sincere people who are not going to jump on the latest poll.

Mr Trump is expected to hold a campaign rally at Green Bay Airport on Friday afternoon, one of the few campaign stops in the region in the countdown to Election Day. Donald Trump Jr. addressed his supporters Tuesday in De Pere, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Mayor and Democratic hopeful for president, hesitated last week for Mr Biden in a brewery across from Lambeau Field, home of the locally beloved Packers.

Mr Biden did not visit Brown, Outagamy or Winnebago counties in 2020, but he made a campaign stop in September in Manitowoc, a manufacturing hub in a Republican county 40 miles east on the shore of Lake Michigan. Hillary Clinton’s only planned campaign stop in Wisconsin in 2016 was believed to have been in Green Bay, but she canceled it after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.

“Think of Fox Valley as New Hampshire as a general election voter,” said Thomas Nelson, the Outagamie County executive who grew up in Little Chute and now lives in Appleton.

Mr Nelson, a Democrat who launched a 2022 candidacy for Mr Johnson’s Senate seat on Monday, said voters in that part of Wisconsin were much less likely to vote reflexively for either party .

“Candidates for elections are expected to take their constituents seriously and work hard for their vote,” he said.

Mr Johnson had previously pledged to retire after two terms, but in an interview on Wednesday he said he was leaning towards a third term in 2022. “Things have changed,” he said . “The house is no longer a firewall. I have to see what happens in this election.

Charles Franklin, the Marquette Law School pollster who leads the state’s most respected political inquiry, said Fox Valley’s story is that its towns – Appleton, Green Bay and Oshkosh – are becoming more democratic as that rural areas have become more republican.

In between, there are communities that once had populations of loyal union Democrats who turned political chameleons with the closure of mills and factories.

“These counties are becoming more competitive as they become more polarized between cities and countryside,” Franklin said. “There are enough people living outside the cities that this is not a safe realignment with the Democrats.”

In Little Chute, a series of voters voting in the village hall Thursday said they jumped from party to party in the recent election.

Terry Rathsack, a retired chef, said he voted for Mr. Obama and then Mr. Trump, whom he supported a second time because of the president’s stance against abortion. He said there was no consensus among his friends and neighbors on who to vote for.

“It’s all mixed up,” Mr. Rathsack said. “Everyone I talk to is for someone else.”

Across the plaza from Village Hall, Linda McDaniel, a retiree who volunteers to visit the village’s 110-foot-tall wooden Dutch windmill, said she had been a Bush voter who migrated to Mr. Obama and that she supports Mr. Biden.

“I’m not always a Democrat, it depends on the person,” she said. “I think a lot of people vote Trump because of the abortion. I don’t like abortion either, I’m against it too, but I don’t like Trump.

While the Fox Valley is often competitive in statewide elections, its political representation is determined by Wisconsin’s fiercely gerrymandered legislative and parliamentary maps. It is divided between two congressional districts and Little Chute, with only 12,000 residents, is divided between three districts, each in the Senate and the Assembly of the State of Wisconsin.

As a result, Democrats in the region are vastly outnumbered by Republicans in the state legislature, and none of its congressional districts are considered competitive.

Ms Stuck, a state assembly member and public school substitute teacher who is running in Congress against Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Green Bay, said the region’s economic diversity means its constituents are out listening and influenced by national trends.

“We have a manufacturing base, we have a farming base, we just have a really unique blend that can really feel what’s going on,” she said in an interview outside an Appleton cafe on Thursday. “The people here are really affected by these national decisions and so maybe they are paying more attention and are ready to change according to what they think is best for them.”

Reid Ribble, a Republican from Sherwood, right on top of Lake Winnebago in Appleton, represented the region in Congress for six years before retiring after the 2016 election. He said his former constituents did not commit in the sort of tribal political warfare that takes place in Milwaukee, Madison, and rural parts of the state.

“They are a little more discriminating than being trapped in following a particular party protocol,” he said. “You will see people voting for Biden and for Mike Gallagher for Congress.”

At the Little Chute Village Hall, Joe Driessen, 63, a retired warehouse manager, voted for George W. Bush, then for Mr. Obama, did not run in the 2016 election and voted for Mr. Biden Thursday.

Mr. Driessen’s caregiver, Stephanie Osburn, 35, an Appletonian, pushed her wheelchair to the village hall. She said the coronavirus wouldn’t play a big factor in her decision – she had it and didn’t think it was that bad. “I had a worse hangover,” she says.

She voted for Mr Obama, then Mr Johnson in 2016 and is not sure what to do this year.

“I still haven’t made a final decision,” she said. “Both have positive and negative things.”