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Presidential election expected to bring excitement in Fay-West region

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The heads of both major political parties in Fayette and Westmoreland counties are looking forward to Tuesday's general election, which all believe will be big and will deliver excitement.

“I think the turnout will be about 57 percent — plus or minus three or four points,” said Fred Lebder, head of the Fayette County Democratic Party.

Lebder believes the big issue has always been the weather. If Hurricane Sandy had hit a week later on Election Day, the turnout would have been lower than 20 percent, he said.

As with every election, they'll have workers at every poll in the county, Lebder said, but this year's presidential election will be peculiar because of the issues that have come up with President Obama's first term in office.

“We never had to face issues like gay marriage. We never had to face the coal miners issue of using less coal to power turbines at power plants,” Lebder said.

He believes Fayette County's vote will go toward Republican challenger Mitt Romney. “The issues weren't there the last time.”

Four years ago, Republican candidate John McCain received the most votes in Fayette and Westmoreland counties but lost Pennsylvania to Obama.

Lebder believes the same will happen this year.

“Obama can still win Pennsylvania,” he said.

Russ Rhodes, head of the Fayette County Republican Party, said he's not sure of this year's turnout.

“I was told it was 55 percent four years ago,” he said. “I imagine it will be more than it was four years ago. We're going to have a very nice turnout.”

Rhodes believes the turnout will be higher because of the passion the voters feel on both sides.

Romney will take Southwestern Pennsylvania, Rhodes said, and he's “cautiously optimistic” that Romney will win Pennsylvania because of the issues of the economy and jobs.

“Fayette County is at 9.2 percent unemployment, and he (Obama) is waging a war on coal,” Rhodes said. It's not just coal that's being affected, but all the other industries related to coal, he noted.

Jill Cooper, head of the Westmoreland County Republican Party, agrees the economy is going to be the driving force for what she predicts will cause a strong Republican turnout on Tuesday.

“I believe you'll see Westmoreland County numbers going 60 percent for Romney,” Cooper said, adding that she has seen the energy at their victory centers across the county unable to keep up with the demand for Romney/Ryan signs as well as their packed phone banks.

“The turnout is going to be high, the energy level is high, and we can't wait to get out and vote,” she said.

Cooper has not met anyone who voted for McCain four years ago who isn't voting for Romney, but she said she has met people who voted for Obama four years ago but are voting for Romney. She also sees many independents leaning toward Romney, she said.

No matter which vote residents cast, leaders on both sides agree that people need to get out and vote.

“You have this fundamental right to go out and shape your country,” Rhodes said. “Just get out and vote. Choose to make a difference. It's no longer a matter of conservative or liberal; it's America.”

The head of the Westmoreland County Democratic Party was contacted for this report but did not return a phone call as of press time.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or

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