National News

That Time Oprah Came to My House to Campaign

ATLANTA — Kassie Jones was cleaning up from a Halloween party at her home in Marietta, Georgia, on Thursday when Oprah Winfrey dropped by to talk politics.

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Richard Fausset
, New York Times

ATLANTA — Kassie Jones was cleaning up from a Halloween party at her home in Marietta, Georgia, on Thursday when Oprah Winfrey dropped by to talk politics.

It was a pretty big deal.

Jones, 66, a retiree who worked in the banking and retail sectors, moved to this Atlanta suburb three years ago from Chicago, where Winfrey’s career took off. Jones had tried to get her mother tickets to Winfrey’s daytime talk show there, but never succeeded. And Jones already had a sign in her yard for Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, on whose behalf Winfrey had come to canvass.

Jones had been primed for the possibility of an Oprah sighting in Marietta. “I’d heard on TV that Oprah was coming to town,” Jones said. “But you know, what are the chances?”

Then suddenly there was a cluster of big SUVs with darkened windows, and there she was, in the back seat of one. Jones rushed outside, feeling elated — “just the normal nut case someone would be if they ran into Oprah,” she said.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I used to live in Chicago! I have so many stories to tell you!’ And she was unbelievably cordial and wonderful.”

Jones recalled trying to get her mother tickets to the show. Winfrey said she wished she would have known.

Jones then showed Winfrey another sign in her yard. This one, a popular sign in the nation’s more liberal neighborhoods in the age of Trump, proclaimed her home to be a welcoming place for women’s rights, science, LGBT rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Jones said she felt like it was kind of a big deal to plant that sign in the northern Atlanta suburbs, which were once a bastion of Southern conservatism but now appear to be in political flux, in part because of more liberal newcomers like herself.

So she and Winfrey talked about the sign, and Winfrey shot a video of it, and Winfrey asked Jones about Abrams, and Jones said she was voting for her — although she had not yet because the lines for early voting had been so long. Polls show a tight race between Abrams and Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee.

The entire encounter lasted eight to 10 minutes. Jones said it was somewhat surreal to have Oprah Winfrey (and her rather large entourage) on the lawn of her quiet suburban street. Then again, part of the Oprah mystique is that after someone does a double-take after seeing her in person, she just seems to get on with the business of being a normal human. You open the door, and there she is canvassing, clipboard in hand, and maybe you give a wild yawp of recognition and excitement.

Then again, such audiences do not come every day, and Jones made the most of it. She told Winfrey about a speech she saw her give at the Kennedy Center, and how it had brought tears to her eyes and made her think that maybe the problems of race and politics in this troubled country really can improve.

“I said, ‘I hope you run in 2020,'” Jones recalls saying. “She said, ‘No, no.'”

“I said, ‘You’re the type of person this country is looking for. Someone who stands up for fairness and decency.’

“And she was laughing. She was like, ‘Maybe you should run.'”

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