A Wealthy Retiree Outside GOP-Leaning Phoenix Plans To Vote D

Oct 4, 2016
Originally published on October 4, 2016 7:49 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene in Phoenix at member station KJZZ. We are here in Arizona for our project Divided States. We're meeting four voters this morning, and we're going to bring them back tomorrow morning to hear their impressions of tonight's vice presidential debate. Now, to meet one voter, we drove up this mountain that overlooks Phoenix. Lanny Lahr and his wife, Marlene (ph), live there. Lanny built a couple pharmaceutical companies, and then he sold them, letting him retire early in plenty of comfort.

We have a security gate here leading up onto what looks like a mountain.

(SOUNDBITE OF RINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Access granted.

GREENE: And we've been granted access. Well, this place is lovely, like adobe-style house overlooking the mountain in the sunrise. Hi, morning.

MARLENE LAHR: I'm (unintelligible).

GREENE: I'm David.

M LAHR: Hi, David.

GREENE: Nice to meet you...

LANNY LAHR: Lanny.

GREENE: ...Lanny. Thanks for having us.

M LAHR: Sure.

L LAHR: You're welcome. Come on in.

GREENE: So we sat down on their patio. The view was like a Southwestern painting. The mountain across the way was glowing perfectly in orange at sunrise. The skyscrapers of downtown Phoenix were just beyond that. Lanny and Marlene did not always live like this. They took me back to their teenage days in Michigan.

I'm just - how did you two meet?

L LAHR: I picked her up. We were in a pizza place in Detroit, and I was with the guys, and she was with her girlfriends. So I said, you know what? I'm going to go up and ask her if I can drive her home, so I did.

GREENE: Bold move, Lanny. I like that.

L LAHR: (Laughter).

M LAHR: I had to call my mother.

L LAHR: (Laughter).

GREENE: To ask if you could go home with this guy.

L LAHR: (Laughter) And so that's how we met. We only - I think she broke up with me one time.

M LAHR: He was a bum. He was a bum. He was going to the racetrack every day. He had dropped out of school, and he kept saying, you know, you're better than I am. You know, you should - and one day I said you're right. And I said, you know, when you're enrolled in college, send me the papers that you're enrolled and I'll talk to you again.

GREENE: And he enrolled again?

M LAHR: Yeah. He just needed a little motivation. He was smart, but he was street smart, and he needed to be book smart.

GREENE: Do you see her saving you from a life of going to the racetrack and being a bum?

L LAHR: Honestly, I don't - I've never thought about it in that way. She probably did force me at that moment to go to school.

M LAHR: That's the first time you ever admitted that.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Now, these days in retirement here in Arizona, Lanny and Marlene are philanthropists. Most of the people at their country club are Republicans. Lanny calls himself a moderate Democrat. He voted for Ronald Reagan, also George H. W. Bush. But this year, he is supporting Hillary Clinton.

Is it hard to be, as you describe yourself, a moderate Democrat in the world in your circles that you're in here in Phoenix?

L LAHR: No, I...

GREENE: You're laughing a little bit.

M LAHR: Because he has a breakfast group that's amazing because he's probably the only Democrat. He holds up his end, but they beat him up pretty good.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: I wonder if you can relate in some ways to Donald Trump figuring out any way possible to not pay federal taxes, given many of the loopholes and options that exist in the tax system for people who have a lot of money.

L LAHR: I'm not arguing that he used the system. I would use the system the same exact way. Listen, when I was in business, if I had carryforward tax losses, I used them.

GREENE: And those are - we should say those are the business losses that you can carry over over time and reduce...

L LAHR: Right.

GREENE: ...Your tax responsibilities.

L LAHR: What I - what I find disgusting about him is he made a deal with a guy - I'm going to use it - the window washer, it doesn't make any difference what it was - to pay the window washer $500 to do his windows. The window washer does his windows, and then he goes back to the window washer and says I'm giving you 300 bucks. I find that disgusting. I find it immoral. And the wealthier he became, the more disgusting he became to me.

GREENE: So it's - you're much more upset about the stories about him stiffing people who came to work for him than you are about, you know, whether or not he paid his taxes over time.

L LAHR: Right, absolutely.

GREENE: Lanny, if there's a young man or woman who dreams of building what you have, building a business, being able to retire early, spend time with your family, and they're drawn - he or she - to Donald Trump because they might think, like, here's a president who understands the business world and, you know, is fiscally conservative and will have policies that will help me build this business, what would you tell them?

L LAHR: I wouldn't want someone like Donald Trump representing me as a successful businessman. That would not be my model. If you talked about Bloomberg, I think Bloomberg is an unbelievable person. Warren Buffett, there's a man who's, you know, the third or fourth richest man in the world. Have you ever heard someone say a bad word about him in business? That's the kind of people you'd want to follow.

GREENE: So is - is Hillary Clinton a vote against Donald Trump for you or do you see her as the mold of a president who you're talking about?

L LAHR: I think Hillary Clinton is more than qualified to be president of the United States. She has a communication problem. And whether she can get to the American people is another story. I would think that she has a better chance of compromising because I think she understands government better than Barack Obama did. I thought Barack Obama was naive on many issues and especially on foreign affairs. Now, whether she will be able to succeed in this kind of environment is another story.

GREENE: Thank you both so much.

M LAHR: Oh, you're welcome.

L LAHR: You're welcome.

GREENE: Lanny and Marlene Lahr. They are two voters supporting Clinton here in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.