AP NEWS

Trump Dominates In Luzerne County

November 10, 2016 GMT

Amanda Konopki is a former Democrat who was swayed to become a Republican to vote for Donald Trump this election cycle.

The 33-year-old Plymouth woman voted for Trump, saying she regrets voting for Barack Obama the past two times.

“My ballot was always straight Democratic. This time I switched it up. I became more educated and more mature,” Konopki said. “I was raised in poverty, but as an adult I’ve changed that and I am in the middle — working class. I felt it was best for my family.”

Trump dominated in Luzerne County, collecting nearly 58 percent of the unofficial vote in Tuesday’s elections and receiving more votes in 72 of the county’s 76 municipalities.

Just four years ago, Obama received 52 percent of the county presidential vote. Prior to Tuesday, a Republican hadn’t won the county presidential vote since 1988.

For a municipal breakdown, click here.

Konopki, a social worker, mother of four and U.S. Army veteran, said she gravitated to Trump’s “America First” pledge and his tough-talking approach to governing.

“I believe he can handle the pressure and responsibility. He’s very intelligent. He’s not afraid to go outside the box and say, ‘hey, let’s try it this way,’” Konopki said.

The only county municipalities where Democrat Hillary Clinton was on top were Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Avoca and Kingston.

The unofficial county vote with all precincts reporting has Trump with 78,303 votes and Clinton with 52,092.

“It was surprising,” said Ed Mitchell, a veteran Democratic strategist from Kingston. “Luzerne County had been reliably Democratic normally. There’s been a shift.”

Tuesday’s turnout was 66.4 percent of registered voters. It was 65 percent in 2012 and 74 percent in 2008.

Trump has a celebrity appeal that produced big rallies in the area, and his message about bringing back manufacturing and industrial jobs appealed to a nostalgic, elderly population in the county, Mitchell said.

Law enforcement also was a source of support for Trump. He had gotten support from the national Fraternal Order of Police after the group’s leader criticized Clinton for not even seeking its endorsement.

Kingston police officer Sgt. Sam Blaski, president of the FOP’s Wyoming Valley Lodge 36, said the local FOP supported Trump.

“The FOP is extremely happy with the results. National, state and local lodges agree with the people — the correct person won the election and it’s now time for unity and change,” Blaski said. “We, law enforcement; and the people needed this win.”

Trump won the state’s 20 Electoral College votes with 48.8 percent of the state’s unofficial vote tally, compared to 47.7 percent for Clinton. It’s the first time since 1988 the state has gone Republican in a presidential election.

Wilkes University political science professor Thomas Baldino thought Clinton was going to top Trump in Luzerne County, 50 percent to 49 percent. Trump appealed to many county voters, who were “angry and wanted change,” Baldino said. He added he suspects many Trump voters here were new or had not voted in some time.

Luzerne County’s voting base is now more comparable to some counties in western Pennsylvania, where many older, white voters are registered as Democrats but are more likely to vote Republican, Baldino said.

Clinton received the most votes in 11 of 67 counties in the state — Lackawanna, Monroe, Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Allegheny, Dauphin and Centre.

The Democratic presidential vote dropped significantly in Lackawanna since the 2012 contest — from 63 percent to 50 percent.

Clinton got almost 39 percent of the vote in Luzerne County.

mbuffer@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer

bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2055, @cvbobkal