The suburbs to the east and south of Sacramento comprise one of the most hotly contested congressional districts in California. Voters in California’s 7th Congressional District are pretty evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, and President Obama barely carried it in 2012.
To get a sense of what some voters are thinking, I visited the Neil Orchard Senior Activities Center where a group had gathered for its regular bingo game.
Despite the variety of political opinions in the room, the crowd agrees on one thing -- they’re serious about their bingo. But before the game started I got to chat with a few of them.
Anita Nagel was eager to speak. She is originally from New York City. Her parents were immigrants and she’s concerned about some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric she’s heard this election season.
“My children’s paternal grandparents were from Germany and they had to flee Germany because of Hitler," she said. "You know, they had the time with the Japanese in internment camps. I don’t want to see that again. I really don’t want to see that again.”
Still Nagel is pleased with the overall direction of the country. She giggled as she proclaimed she’ll be voting for the first woman President of the United States. But she acknowledges political discussion have become tense.
"One of my best friends here, she's voting for the other party. We don't talk about it here because we want to stay friends," she said.
Nagel plans to vote for Democratic Congressman Ami Bera too. He squeaked out wins in 2012 and 2014. This year he’s facing a challenge from Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
A bit further down the row of bingo players sat Lee Orton, a Republican voter. He doesn’t share Nagel’s enthusiasm for the path the country is on. Orton said more than 20 years in the military taught him the difference between right and wrong.
"It seems like everything has changed so much. That it’s just ridiculous. Too liberal, this country is way too liberal," he said. "They don’t enforce the laws. When they do enforce the laws they say, oh he’s innocent. It’s just crazy.”
Orton’s wife Shirley, also a Republican, sat next to him and echoed his sentiments.
“I’m really concerned about my grandkids," she said. "It seems like there’s no moral authority anymore, that people can get away with almost anything.”
Nagel and the Ortons represent just one segment of the district's population, they're older and white. But the district is diverse. It spans from the upscale City of Folsom to the suburbs of Elk Grove. And it has sizable Hispanic and Asian populations as well.