Party leaders weigh in on election

By Patty Yauger pyauger@heraldstandard.com

Published Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:15 AM EST

After months and months of listening to their political advertisements, sifting through their mailers and analyzing their stances on the issues, it is now time for the voters to let their voice be heard.

Across the U.S., more than 200 million people are eligible to cast a ballot in today’s election.

In Fayette County the number is about 80,000 and in neighboring Greene County, the number is about 22,500.

Both Larry Blosser, Fayette County Election Bureau director, and Tina Kiger, Greene County Election Bureau director, are anticipating long lines at the polls due to the interest in the presidential race.

Blosser speculated about 64 percent of the county’s electorate will turn out while Kiger’s estimate is a few percentage points less, thanks in great part to the presidential election.

Since the primary, both bureaus have seen an uptick in new voter registrations and party registration changes, with most favoring the Republican Party.

Russ Rhodes, Fayette County Reagan Republican Committee chairman, said GOP numbers are on the rise across the state.

“I think the Republican message of smaller government is resonating more and more with the electorate,” he said. “They see government regulating more, expanding programs to be all inclusive and raising taxes to make it so. The electorate is tired and wants it to stop.”

“Eight years ago, Republicans changed party affiliation in the primaries so they could vote against Hillary in an attempt to keep her out of the White House. I think, in a sense we are seeing the same thing with this election. (New voters) are excited about the possibility of true change with the Washington Beltway outsider Donald Trump who speaks his mind and doesn’t care for political correctness.”

Attorney James Davis, the county Democratic committee chairman, said Trump’s popularity stems from his capitalization on the fears of the voting public that have witnessed the closure of the coal mines and steel plants.

“Can they pay their mortgage? Can they pay for their son’s or daughter’s education,” he said. “Can they buy a new car or should they fix the old one because of the declining wages they are facing?

“There is fear and (Trump) speaks to that fear and he capitalizes on it.”

Western Pennsylvania Democrats, too, have seen the party move more to the left, a place they are no longer comfortable, Davis said.

“We are more moderate in our thinking,” he said, acknowledging, too, that the party turmoil — the parting of ways with former national chairwoman Deborah Wasserman Schultz and her replacement, Donna Brazile, does not bode well for the party. “It might not have a lot of impact here, but it does have impact.”

Davis, meanwhile, anticipates a “very close” presidential race, but was reserved in his opinion as to which candidate county voters would back.

“There is a lot of support for Hillary Clinton and a lot of support for Donald Trump,” said Davis. “The difference is Trump’s support appears to be passionate and sometimes vocal, while the Clinton support lacks those same attributes.

“However, I am cautiously optimistic that Clinton will take Fayette County, although the (presidential voting pattern) doesn’t favor it.”

In 2004, then-Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry carried the county over incumbent President George W. Bush, and by a narrow margin, a majority of voters opted for GOP Arizona Sen. John McCain over his Democratic challenger Barack Obama in 2008.

In 2012, county voters again chose Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney over Obama.

Davis was more optimistic for wins by other Democrats on the ballot, including the senatorial race between incumbent Republican, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and his challenger, former local and state environmental policy official Katie McGinty, a Democrat.

On Monday, the polls had tightened in the race with McGinty holding a slight edge over Toomey.

“There was too much nastiness in this race,” said Davis. “I think (McGinty) will win, unless Trump voters come out and just go (down the ballot and choose all Republicans).

“I think she will be successful here though.”

In the congressional race, Davis said the only choice for Democrats is to write in the name of Adam Sedlock.

On the ballot is incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, and his GOP primary challenger, Art Halvorson of Manns Choice, who secured the Democratic nomination in a write-in campaign.

“He’s the only Democrat (in the race),” he said of Sedlock. “However, if I am to be frank, I see Bill Shuster winning.

“Democrats that believe in the tenets of the party would have a hard time reconciling casting a vote for Halvorson. I think they will have to either vote for a write-in or for Shuster, although they likely don’t believe in everything he does, they are likely closer to him than Halvorson.”

In the state legislative races, Davis, too, cautiously predicted Democrats — both newcomers and incumbents — registering wins.

David Show, Fayette County Republican Committee chairman speculated that Trump would have a large influence on the down ticket.

“Donald Trump has tapped into the frustration Fayette County voters are feeling with the old school policies of the past several decades,” he said. “They are tired of feeling like politicians are not there to serve the citizens, but to serve themselves.

“I think Mr. Trump and Republicans in general will do very well.”

The enthusiasm of the party, coupled with increasing numbers and viable candidates, will have a positive outcome, Show added.

“I think many will be surprised by the turnout and results of this election,” he said. “I have never witnessed the desire to change politics more than I have this year.”

Blosser and Kiger, meanwhile, agreed that longer than normal lines will be the only issue at the polls.

“Plan to spend some time at the polls and be patient,” advised Blosser. “Everyone has to go through the same process.”

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