Whenever Salena Zito writes a piece in the NY Post, it is an absolute must read because she goes into the “Trump Belt” to tell you the truth no one else is willing to tell you about.
From the article linked above:
If John Persinger wins the mayoral race in Erie, Pa., next month, it just might be the greatest local political upset in America this century. A Republican candidate has not been elected mayor here since 1961, when JFK was president.
In many ways, they are correct. The city is affordable, the housing is charming. It is both a college town (there are three: Mercyhurst, Gannon and Penn State Behrend) and a tourist town (miles and miles of beaches along the lake). It boasts some of the top medical facilities in the country, and it is also a company town (Erie Insurance is one of the top employers).
But it is also a struggling city, where schools are hurting financially, the opioid epidemic is rampant and the manufacturing base is collapsing — all factors that led Erie County residents to vote for a Republican president in 2016, the first since Ronald Reagan.
The city of Erie, however, is a different story — Hillary Clinton won all 69 of its voting districts over Donald Trump.
So can 35-year-old Persinger convince his townspeople to turn red? It’s not impossible. And while he is nothing like the president in terms of temperament and style, the two politicians do share a key quality — tapping into voters’ willingness for change. The fourth-largest city in the state, Erie has a population just under 100,000 and a 5.6 percent unemployment rate.
“One of Erie’s biggest challenges in City Hall is a lack of guidance and stewardship,” Persinger told The Post.
Persinger gives each worker his full attention, nodding and taking notes. He seems unbothered by the fact he’s a Republican in a city with a nearly 3-1 Democratic registration advantage. Here, people are born blue.
Persinger is forward-thinking and energetic; he drives around in a mobile campaign office (a 22-year-old converted RV) with his name and photo shrink-wrapped around the entire vehicle. He visits neighborhoods, churches, community centers, mosques, synagogues and knocks on doors where no Democratic or Republican mayoral candidate has been for decades, especially in the African-American and Hispanic communities.
And he listens. It is a trait that has not gone unnoticed in the black communities who for years have had their votes taken for granted by the Democrats and ignored by the Republicans.
On Nov. 7, it will be clear whether machine politics has prevailed or if Persinger’s message has struck a chord — and caused a seismic shift — among the populace. So far, no one has paid much attention to this race outside the city limits. But if Persinger wins, a flood of national media will descend, trying to figure out what is wrong with Erie.