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In region, 'values voters' matter, Republicans find

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Growing up in Fayette County, Virgina Paschke was raised a Democrat.

“My family was always Democratic,” said Paschke, 69, of Lemont Furnace, as she joined her friend, 86-year-old Retha Jordan of Hopwood, at the Uniontown Holiday Inn for the Fayette County Republican Party's annual fall dinner on Thursday.

“We were so Democratic, my father had a picture of FDR on the wall,” she said.She was a registered Democrat for many years, “but I was always independent, splitting my ticket, until I found, more and more, I wasn't voting Democrat.”

Paschke said she abandoned her Democrat roots and changed her registration to Republican during Bill Clinton's presidency.

“He was so corrupt, I just couldn't be connected to that party,” Paschke said.

Paschke's sentiments echoed the findings of one of the dinner's keynote speakers, GOP state chairman Rob Gleason. Gleason, who joined Rep. Bill Shuster, a Hollidaysburg Republican, in headlining the annual dinner, said more voters like Paschke are voting their values over traditional party loyalties.

“There are a lot of conservative people who live here,” Gleason said. “The people in the southwestern area are values voters, and they like to vote for the candidate who shares their values.”

The heavily Democratic county — 66 percent of its nearly 91,000 voters are Democrat — handed Republican John McCain the win in Fayette over Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. This fall, Gleason and Shuster said they are confident the county will once again swing for a Republican and help Pennsylvania send Mitt Romney to the White House.

“The folks in western Pennsylvania and Fayette County are conservative people,” Shuster said. “They believe in God. They believe in the Second Amendment. They hunt and fish. They know the importance of gas and coal, and they don't want the federal government coming in and telling them what to do.”

“I think (Mitt Romney's) going to win Fayette County,” Shuster said. “I think Mitt Romney is going to win Pennsylvania. I think it's going to be a surprise on election night.”

Addressing a crowd of nearly 175 people, both men said despite the party's inroads in Fayette, work still needs to be done to ensure a GOP victory in November.

“We're now in the final throes of the campaign, and we need you to be supportive of our candidates,” Gleason said. “We can win this election.”

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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