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Johnstown ‘prosperous again thanks to Trump’

Descending into the rust belt city of Johnstown you immediately see the dilapidated steel mills, miserably stretched out alongside the Little Conemaugh River.

For about four decades the old mills have literally been rusting, but look closer and the massive one million sq ft Gautier Mill, slap bang in the middle of “downtown” and ironically on Clinton Street, is a hive of activity.

According to its chief financial officer, Jackie Kulback – perhaps the US’ only female steel mill controller – it has had a record year.

Why? There’s only one answer for many in the western Pennsylvanian city, and that’s Donald Trump.

The Gautier steel mill in Johnstown is thriving thanks to Mr Trump, its CFO says
The Gautier steel mill in Johnstown is thriving thanks to Mr Trump, its CFO says

Many of the steelworkers were dedicated traditional Democrat voters – hardworking, fond of unions, Christian – like many in the usually Democrat-leaning keystone state which voted for Mr Trump by 0.7% in 2016.

But how could they argue with what Mr Trump was offering them? Work, more money, a thriving economy.

Ms Kulback, 61, told Sky News: “There are help wanted signs up everywhere in Johnstown, and every business I talk to can’t find enough qualified employees – that hasn’t been a problem in Johnstown for the past couple of decades.

“He’s been in office for two years and the fact we’re in this situation is because of him – we’ve had a record year.

“He removed the regulations Obama put in, people are seeing their wages increase because of that.

“Workers here are getting $3,000 on top of that every three months, it’s hard to argue with that.

“We’ve seen a revitalisation in our area that we haven’t seen for many many years.”

She admitted that it was initially “tough” to get behind Mr Trump when he was standing in the primaries ahead of the 2016 election.

“But he was the only one who had the personal fortitude to stand his ground,” she said.

“The thing with Donald Trump is you know what you’re getting – he made no claims to be a saint.

“We weren’t electing him to be a saint, we were electing him to be a president.”

Even though it’s not Mr Trump, but his party colleagues up for election on Tuesday, she believes people will be voting with the president in mind.

Last year Mr Trump was the guest of honour when a coal mine in the next door county was opened – a move which has won him even more admirers in the area.

Peg Luksik, 63, an educational consultant to the government who is heavily involved in the local Republican Party, said she does not think those former Democrats will flip back.

The mother-of-five told Sky News: “I was in the post office the other day and the fellow behind the counter said ‘I didn’t know how I felt about Trump before but my 401K [retirement savings plan] loves him, so so do I.

“In this area it was a 21,000 edge to the Democrats before and two weeks ago it was down to 7,000.

“The Republican chairman said she’d never seen anything like it, she said: ‘We have people coming in to flip their registration to the Republicans’.”

Peg Luksik said she thinks former Democrats will stick with Donald Trump
Peg Luksik said she thinks former Democrats will stick with Donald Trump

Both women believe the catalyst for that was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, where Mr Trump’s Supreme Court nominee was accused of sexually abusing a woman when they were teenagers.

“I think the Democrats overplayed their hand,” Mrs Luksik said.

“The average person really is fair so I think if there had been corroborating evidence people would have gone after him but there wasn’t any.

“People don’t like when you gang up on somebody, it was cruel, he has little girls, people thought that was mean.

“There was a sense that it was persecution and we don’t like persecutions in this country.”

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