GOP confident about elections
Buoyed by voter registration figures that give Republicans a slight edge over Democrats in Westmoreland County, GOP officials are confident that a strong turnout will bode well for the party this year.
“We should see a higher turnout than in 2015. There’s a lot of people on the ballot, and that should increase turnout (in the primary),” said Kerry Jobe of Slickville, chairman of the county Republican Party for less than a year.
A candidates’ night in North Huntingdon this week attracted a few hundred people, including several running for local and county offices and others who were sporting buttons of candidates they support. GOP committees representing North Huntingdon, Penn Township and the Mon Valley sponsored the event, which James Leasure, chairman of the North Huntingdon committee, said was designed to give voters a chance to meet the candidates and “help our party members decide who they would like to back in the primary, for who they’d like to knock on doors.”
Republican officials are optimistic about their chances for victory in the general election because more county residents are voting Republican, Jobe said. The national Democratic Party is moving further to the left and away from voters in the county, added Jobe, a Salem Township supervisor.
“In the odd years, you have the super voters, and they pay attention to the issues,” Jobe said.
County voter registration records show 104,134 Republicans compared to 103,346 Democrats. Four years ago, Democrats had 16,000 more registered voters than Republicans.
“The voter registration has finally caught up to how people (in Westmoreland County) have been voting consistently. People are going to change for the party they want to be part of,” Jobe said.
A group of moderate Democrats, led by Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli and six candidates for county row offices, held a political rally Sunday in Jeannette.
“We are pro-life, pro-gun and pro-union,” Cerilli said at the time. “The national Democratic Party has gone way too far to the left. The same can be said about the national Republican Party that I think has gone too far to the right.
“Everybody needs to come together in the middle and work together.”
Several Republican candidates for county commissioner this week criticized the group for trying to pander to conservative voters.
President Trump and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney easily won Westmoreland County in the 2016 and 2012 elections, Jobe said. The GOP holds five county row offices and most of the county is represented by Republicans in the state Senate and House.
Jobe credited former President Obama’s “liberal agenda” and Democrats on the national stage for driving people toward the Republican Party.
Jobe said he does not expect to see county GOP voter registration drop because of Trump’s legal or political woes.
“I don’t think it will have much effect” on voter registration, Jobe said. “People voting in this election want to know what is happening on the local level.”
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .