For hours, on a rainy Saturday morning and afternoon, dozens of protesters stood on a sidewalk across the street from Johnstown Wire Technologies for the chance to heckle a bus carrying Hillary Clinton.
And to show their support for her opponent in this year’s presidential race, Republican Donald Trump.
Many aired grievances against the Democratic Party's nominee – including her use of a personal email server for official work during her time as secretary of state – while waiting for the candidate to arrive for a campaign stop at the local business.
“She had a private server to do our business – our State Department, foreign affairs business – on, and mixed it with her emails and then decides that she has the right to pick which ones are which,” said Sharon Nagle, an East Taylor Township resident. “No, they’re all ours. They’re ours – not hers – and I want them back. I want to know where our emails are, and I want to know why she had a secret server to keep her business from the people who she serves and works for.”
Clinton was not punished for using the private server.
“Hillary is a bad choice for president,” Schellsburg resident David Allison said. “She should be in jail right now, really. It looks like there’s two standards for citizens in this country. The rest of us and the elite. They have their own set of rules.”
Carl Anderson talked about the appeal of Trump’s agenda.
“I like the idea that he’s going to try to keep out the illegal aliens from coming through,” the Belsano resident said. “Doesn’t necessarily have to be Mexicans, just anybody that’s coming in illegally. He’s going to try to stop the drug traffic. We have a big drug problem in our area. I’m real interested in that. He also plans on bringing back jobs, stopping these companies from going overseas.”
Many prominent local Republican Party officials think Trump can do well locally, especially after getting about 65 percent of the Cambria County vote in the primary.
Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Robert Gleason, a Westmont resident, wants to bring Trump to Johnstown for a big rally, compared with the small gathering of about 200 people Clinton addressed.
“Obviously, this area is Donald Trump country,” Gleason said. “For her, coming to Cambria County – and not really exposing herself, going where nobody really sees you – tells you she’s not confident about getting votes here.”
He continued: “We’re going to have him here down at the War Memorial. It’s just when. We’re going to have him here at the War Memorial, not just come to a factory.”
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, believes the GOP’s message will resonate more with local voters.
“Big government Washington programs that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton promote have been good at creating jobs inside the capital beltway and at eliminating family sustaining jobs outside the beltway,” Rothfus said in an email statement.
“The President even threatened to veto my SENSE Act, a bill that would save 5,200 family sustaining jobs in Western Pennsylvania while restoring the environment. Hillary Clinton may believe coal jobs are the so-called jobs of the past, but to hard working coal miners in my district, they are the jobs of today, and they are being destroyed by Washington bureaucrats. More Washington will not grow jobs. The Better Way platform of Speaker Ryan and House Republicans, which focuses on pro-growth tax, regulatory and health care reform will. It is the better way.”
Republicans are banking on support from a large group of local former Democrats who have switched to the GOP, including more than 2,000 in Cambria County alone, since last year’s general election. That includes Somerset County resident retired Marine Corps Col. John Hugya, chief of staff for the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, a Democratic stalwart from the 12th Congressional District.
“Karen (Hugya’s wife) and I have switched party affiliations,” wrote Hugya, a 12th district candidate as a Democrat in 2014, in a text. “We will be Republicans. As a retired Marine Col. and Jack Murtha’s chief of staff, I cannot support a party which has gone so far to the left. It has no leadership, no vision for our nation’s safety nor the safety of our citizens and degrading our law enforcement officers who risk their lives 24/7 for all the people regardless of color. There is no leadership from the top down.”
“Our nation and its people will not be served with the goals of the Democratic Party and I want out!”