Divided house: Wife backs Warren, husband supports Mayor Pete

EXETER, N.H. — If you’ve driven up High Street this winter, chances are you’ve noticed the house on the corner by the road to the hospital.

It belongs to Greg and Julie Gilman.

On one side of their property sits a large “Pete 2020” sign in support of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. On the other side, stapled to the fence, an equally large “NH for Warren” sign for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

It’s the first time in almost 24 years of marriage that Greg and Julie have differed on which candidate they support in the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

“We get a lot of jokes when people drive by, some of them think it’s a two-family house,” said Julie, adding one neighbor’s son who goes by on his way to school each day remarks, “I just don’t understand it.”

A canvasser from Andrew Yang’s campaign, who knocked on their door, had a creative suggestion upon seeing the signs. “Would you consider splitting the difference and voting for Yang,” he asked Julie, who said, “I thought that was a good try.”

Julie supported Warren from the start. She has followed Warren since her work for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, looking out for people who were being “taken advantage of” and working with both the Congress and Senate in that role.

“When she announced she was running for president, I was all in,” Julie said. “I like how she works. I like what she’s going after with the Medicare for all, pursuing places where there is a huge profit that could be spread out amongst the people who need these products.”

She can also envision Warren sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office. “I’m not supporting her because she’s a woman,” she said. “To me that’s a bonus.”

Greg has also been a fan of Warren but was drawn to Buttigieg. “Buttigieg was literally the first candidate in my adult life where I agreed with probably 90% of the positions he has taken,” Greg said. “I also think that he’s incredibly articulate and really well organized. I know that he’s young, but honestly, I feel like he would make the best president of the options that are available.”

And he came to their house.

Last spring, Buttigieg attended a house party there after speaking at the Exeter Town Hall. On his way out, Greg and Julie discreetly presented him with a bottle of his favorite scotch, the identity of which Greg gleaned from a New Yorker profile of the candidate. “He was pleased, he said, ‘This is too much.”’

While they have gotten some good-natured jokes about their divided house, such as whether there is a tape line down the middle, the couple do like both candidates.

“When I got reserved seats to her town hall at the high school, who did I give my second ticket to?” Julie asked.

Greg.

Greg says he’s been a longtime supporter of Warren. “I just happen to believe that her central campaign promise of Medicare for all is going to be too divisive,” he said, adding he likes Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it” proposal. “Don’t you think that our disagreement really reflects a fundamental division right now in the electorate?”

Greg and Julie both grew up in Exeter, have seen countless primaries, and take their role in the first-in-the-nation primary seriously.

“I think that every presidential election people want to engage, they really want to get to know the candidates so they can make an informed decision,” she said. “You don’t win an election by having the most signs. Signs don’t get votes. So ironically, we have the biggest ones in town.”

It’s true, they do.

Greg hears the criticism of New Hampshire being the first primary, specifically the state’s demographics, but feels like the Granite State plays an important role. “There’s something to be said for the serious retail politics that are necessary to win these states and the kind of campaigning you have to do,” he said.

He remembers when Gerald Ford came to Exeter and had a huge event at the Bandstand downtown. Julie also remembers the Bandstand, where she played in the high school band when candidates visited downtown. “In my lifetime, it’s been a thrilling thing to go through,” she said.

When Ford visited Exeter, the Secret Service protection was different and locals knew what route he was coming into town, down Kingston Road. “Everybody in their little houses were out waving to him,” she said.

When then-Vice President Joe Biden visited Exeter in 2012, the route was secret, and the downtown blocked off prior to his arrival. Julie lucked out and got through the roadblock to drive to her house, and recalls being one of the only ones out on High Street when Biden’s motorcade drove past.

“And that’s another thing I got you into,” she joked to Greg of the Biden speech.

But back to the divided house. Since last fall, they’ve been hosts to a campaign worker for Buttigieg’s campaign. Julie doesn’t feel outnumbered though. The couple’s two adult daughters are also Warren supporters. Both sides have been respectful throughout the campaign, even coming together for a recent poker game at the home with staffers from both camps.

How did they decide which sign went where, as the corner that the Pete 2020 sign commands has greater visibility?

“I remember we were going to play a three-out-of-five cribbage match,” Julie said.

Greg added, “Frankly, I put the sign out first.”

When the Warren team showed up with their sign. “I directed them to the fence with their sign,” he said. “But I did lend them our staple gun.”

Later, when the Warren sign blew down, their resident Pete campaign worker, went out and put it back up.

Notice anything here? We can disagree and be kind to each other America. The couple agree, saying they do have minor debates about their chosen candidates, but don’t let them get contentious.

“We’ll each support whoever gets the nomination,” Julie said.

Greg added, “There’s no doubt about that.”