The Kilgannons of Collingswood: Dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, with some modern twists [UPDATE]

    [UPDATE] John Kilgannon of Collingswood, N.J., said he doesn’t think the third and final presidential debate will be much of a game changer. “The next few weeks should be interesting,” he said.

    Here’s the latest comment on the election by John and Hope Kilgannon from Collingswood, N.J. For the original story, see below.

    Tuesday, Oct. 23

    Last night’s final debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney was not as combative as the second. We checked in with families from our series “The Stakes: Local Families View the Election” to find out how the debate played in their living rooms.

    From John Kilgannon:

    “For the record, Hope fell asleep (again).

    “My initial reaction was that last night’s debate took a back seat to the earlier debates. My sense is that, for most voters, the recent events in Libya and Syria are far less important than issues such as jobs and overall financial security on a personal and national level.

    “That said, the president came out fighting again. At the outset, I thought that it would be important for him to remind voters that he is the commander in chief and to repeatedly reference the demise of Osama Bin Laden, the end of the Iraq war and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He accomplished those objectives.

    “In sum, I don’t think this debate will prove to be a game changer. The next few weeks should be interesting.”

    Wednesday, Oct. 17

    John: “We were able to catch some of the debate last night (although it appeared as if Hope was falling asleep on the couch). Nice to see the president received his wake-up call. Tough to keep a scorecard on debates, but he seemed to at least hold his own if not come out on top.” 

    Hope: “Admittedly I got comfortable and fell asleep at some point. I did catch their exchanges on taxes, gas prices, fuel independence, the environment and fair pay for women. I thought the president ran away with it! He reminded me why I am a Democrat and why I’ll vote for him.”




    Meet the Kilgannon family of Collingswood: John is a bankruptcy lawyer; his wife, Hope, is a physician; Aidan is a fourth-grader; and Elle, a bundle of energy, proudly proclaims that she is 6.

    They live in a beautiful home, more than a century old, that’s now undergoing renovation. Those renovations have taken their already hectic lives to another level.

    “It’s strictly chaos, as you can see from looking around here,” says Hope. “It’s all chaos.”

    Despite that uproar, the Kilgannons are keeping close watch on the presidential campaign.

    “He’s the person who has time to read the paper,” says Hope, indicating her husband. “And I’m the person who has time to listen to the radio, cause I drive the kids to school, and I pick up, and I drive to work. He’s always on the train, reading the paper.”

    The Kilgannons are lifelong Democrats.

    “My dad and mom very much ingrained it in me, sort of like the Eagles, the Phillies, and Catholicism,” says Hope.

    ‘Fat and sluggish’

    Like many other Democrats, they say they were disappointed in President Barack Obama’s performance during the first debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

    “It struck me that he was coming out as a heavyweight champion who’s had the belt for a number of years,” says John. “You know, he comes out fat and sluggish and the challenger comes in ready to knock him out.”

    Hope, however, cuts the incumbent more slack than her husband does.

    “I thought he was just so busy running the country that he doesn’t have time for Mickey Mouse debate preparation,” she says. “He’s got to run the business of the country. “Mitt Romney, that’s all he had to really do, is prepare himself to go up against Obama.”

    On the hot-button issues, the Kilgannons have definite opinions.

    On Obamacare

    “Closing the loop with the uninsured, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ policies, things like that, are on the road to making the program more efficient, I think,” John says.

    He admits that the federal Affordable Care Act is not perfect.

    “But,” he says, “it’s a step in the right direction. In my opinion, it’s better than what we had.”

    Hope see it as a much-needed plan to address the rising costs of health care. As a physician, she’feels a bit better acquainted than most voters with the issue. The country needs Obamacare, she says, “to pay for what’s already there, and what’s already being done.”

    “There’s a lot of free health care being provided, and there have to be subsidies to pay for it. It has to come from somewhere. So, we need a plan,” she says. “And I don’t think just saying, ‘Let states figure it out,’ with no rules is going to work.”

    On deficit reduction

    The Kilgannons say they recognize that tackling the deficit will come with a cost they’ll have to shoulder.

    “If Obama is elected, our taxes may go up,” Hope says. “They probably will.”

    They seem to agree that they’re willing to shoulder a higher tax bill.

    “If you want to tax me, that’s fine,” John said. “You provide me with a country where I can work hard, and try to make something of myself.”

    Then they diverge a bit.

    “But make sure you run the government efficiently, “John says. “I don’t want to be taxed and, this is a Democrat speaking, have a bloated government or an inefficient government. I think that’s the exchange if you’re going to take my money, spend it wisely, please!”

    Hope betrays a touch of exasperation with her mate: “You don’t get to say: OK, you can raise my taxes, but only if …”

    “Well sure I can!” he responds. “That’s part of the democratic process!”

    On job creation

    Hope sees a definite difference in the political parties’ approach to job creation:

    “The Republicans’ policies tend to protect the corporation first, and hope that it will lead to more jobs for the little guy, whereas I think the Democrats’ policies are, no, we’re going to put the safeguards in for the little guy,” she says.

    Despite the harsh and ominous campaign ads launched by the candidates and by legions of political action committees, John says he’s not completely convinced that the stakes in this presidential election are as high as some have claimed.

    “As you get older, you learn that we kind of operate on a continuum, and whether there’s a Republican in the White House or a Democrat in the White House, we may vacillate 20 percent on either side of that continuum,” he says.

    With more years, new thoughts

    At 41, Hope admits that the lines can blur a bit.

    “I am a little bit attracted to the some of the Republican message of a little bit more personal responsibility,” she said. “As I get older, I do get frustrated. I see myself in that way becoming a little more conservative.”

    Then her inner Democrat kicks in.

    “But, still, the way [the GOP] is going about it cuts out the little guy, the little guy who didn’t start in the same spot,” she says.  She has a number of other issues that weigh on her mind: driling in the Arctic, abortion rights, gay marriage.  If the GOP platform held sway over those matters, she says, “I think that would make me sad about the direction our country is headed in.”

    So, with all this in mind, the Kilgannons will be at their neighborhood polling pace on Nov. 6 with the entire family in tow.

    “I’ve done that for years,” says John. “I’ve brought their car seats in to the voting booths.”

    They intend to let Aidan, who has become very interested in the campaign, push the lever.

    “Mom, we’re for Obama, right?” he asks.

    “Yeah, we’re for Obama,” Hope answers.

    Other family profiles in the series:

    Wednesday, Oct. 10

    The Kubackis of East Falls in Philadelphia

    Thursday, Oct. 11

     The Simons of Roxborough, Philadelphia (NewsWorks only)

    Friday, Oct. 12

    • Alisha Jones and Crystal Portlock of Bear, Del. (on WHYY-FM and NewsWorks)• Janet Gilease and Jonna Naylor of West Mount Airy, Philadelphia (NewsWorks only)

    Monday, Oct. 15

    The Zauns of Downingtown, Chester County (on WHYY-FM and NewsWorks)

    Tuesday, Oct. 16

    Boris Kheyfets and Yana Chernov of West Philadelphia (on WHYY-FM and Newsworks)


    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.