Allentown residents ‘yawn’ as Trump appears for his first major campaign event in area

On Saturday, Donald Trump kicked off his first major campaign event in Schnecksville, a rural town just 10 miles from Allentown.

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Trump rally attendees

Preparing for the Trump rally in Schnecksville, Pa., April 13, 2024. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY)

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Editor’s Note: WHYY News Reporter Carmen Russell-Sluchansky visited the Trump rally and nearby Allentown to gather both the rally-goers’ and residents’ perspectives. Read both stories for multiple points of view.

The Lehigh Valley is a bellwether region for the presidential race. In 2020, it helped seal Biden’s victory, but this year Republicans want to deliver Pennsylvania’s precious 19 electoral votes to Trump.

On Saturday, Donald Trump kicked off his first major campaign event in Schnecksville, a rural town just 10 miles from Allentown, the state’s third-largest city.

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“When you get up there and take a look and look at Schnecksville, it’s a rural part of the state,” Allentown Mayor Matthew Tuerk told WHYY News. “Allentown is a much denser urban area. The things that we’re working on in Allentown are just very distinct from Schnecksville. So here in Allentown, you barely would know that he’s in the area or that he’s going to be in the area.”

Nephtalie Charles, a student at Cedar Crest College, was surprised to know the former president was in the area.

“What’s he doing here?” she asked.

Charles plans to vote for Biden in November but said it’s more of a vote against Trump. She said that Biden’s age concerns her but that there are more important issues to consider.

“I believe that women should still maintain their abortion rights, their body, and sometimes abortion is good for their health, for their physical and mental health,” she said. “So yeah, I’d probably be voting for that.”

Diane, a retiree, also plans to vote for Biden to stop Trump from occupying the White House.

“It’s just going to be bad for democracy if he gets back in,” she told WHYY News. “That’s my opinion. I could say a lot more, but to be nice, I’ll just say that we really need to elect people that are not going to ruin our democracy.”

Not everyone is planning to participate in the elections this November.

“I just am not fond of the candidates,” Nicky Yu told WHYY. “The country’s going downhill.”

Yu said she would vote for a third-party candidate — specifically mentioning Robert Kennedy, Jr. — but she said “they never win, so I feel there’s no point.”

Mayor Tuerk says he believes a lot will change between now and election day as candidates make repeat appearances in the area.

“There are people who are concerned about the potential impact on the fundamentals of our country and the slow erosion of people’s rights. Women’s reproductive rights is top on a lot of people’s minds,” he says. “So those are the big issues that I think we’ll continue to hear about for the next seven months.”

Tuerk, whose entire tenure as mayor has been during the Biden Administration, argues that Allentown residents will gradually see how Biden’s tenure has improved infrastructure and created better jobs.

“The City of Allentown got $57 million through the American Rescue Plan,” he says. “We’ve invested over $20 million in storm sewers and storm pipes and water pipes. We’ve invested money in the establishment of a firefighter academy and emergency operations center. We’ve been able to make investments and we’re about to open up our pool on the east side, which was a project that wouldn’t have been able to happen without the Biden administration.”

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Tuerk says that he and other area mayors are concerned that those investments will disappear under a Trump Administration.

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