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Politics & Government

Western PA Voters Reflect On Election Results — And What Comes Next

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Jared Murphy and Sarah Kovash
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90.5 WESA
Republican Ed Cwiklinski, Democrats Linda Bishop and Savannah Henry, and Republican Mary Henze.

Pennsylvania certified Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election weeks ago. But President Trump’s campaign and some allies are still fighting the outcome in court. For the final installment of our Split Ticket series, 90.5 WESA asked four Western Pennsylvania voters – who we’ve been following for the last year – how they feel about the outcome.

These four voters have talked about a lot over the past year: from President Trump’s impeachment, to climate change, Black Lives Matter protests, and the pandemic. And on issue after issue there has been little – if any – common ground between the two Democrats and two Republicans. Even now, they can’t all agree on who won the election.

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Credit Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA
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Linda Bishop lives in Mars, Pennsylvania.

“I was overjoyed,” said Democrat Linda Bishop.

She’s in her sixties and lives in Mars, Pennsylvania. Bishop was horrified when Trump won in 2016, and she's spent the past four years trying to flip Pennsylvania back.  

“I vowed then and there that that would not happen again, not on my watch,” she said. “I put my all into this election. I had left nothing on the table, and it felt so gratifying.”

Bishop and other members of the group ProgressPA organized rallies, get-out-the-vote efforts, raised money for billboard campaigns, and worked the phones when the pandemic forced everyone to stay home. But even though Biden won, Linda plans to stay active in grassroots organizing.

“President Trump has done so much damage to our country in four years, we have so much work to do to repair the damage,” she said. “Every year there's an election. We don’t just have an election once every four years.”

On the other side of the partisan divide, Mary Henze believes the election is far from over.

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Credit Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA
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Mary Henze lives in Jefferson Hills and supports President Trump.

“God’s not done yet,” said Henze. “Overall what I can say is God’s not done yet and the truth will prevail.”

Henze’s in her fifties and lives in Jefferson Hills. She supports the Trump campaign’s legal efforts to overturn the election, which she suspects was tainted by massive voter fraud. Henze knows other Republicans feel the same way, including her son who decided not to vote.

“I said, ‘Do you see how your vote counts?’ And he goes, ‘I get it mom. But even if I voted, I would have voted Trump, and I’m in Pennsylvania. ...They’re going to do what they’re going to do.’ And he walked away.”

Henze worries about what could happen if Democrats gain control of the U.S. Senate after two runoff races in Georgia next month. 

“We’re going to see so much destruction of our Constitution, and that’s scary,” she said. “I truly believe that if God allows that to happen, we’re in the End Times.”

Now that she’s recovered from a breast cancer diagnosis that she had to contend with this past year, Mary plans to reconvene her online group GOD USA (which stands for Gathering Ordinary Disciples Uniting to Save America) to help people connect with Christian values.

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Credit Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA
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Savannah Henry is a Democrat, and a junior at the University of Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, Democrat Savannah Henry’s faith in the democratic process was strengthened this year.

“It was my first election and it really felt like our votes went far,” said Henry. “Especially being in Pennsylvania, it made me realize, ‘Okay our votes do matter.’”

Henry is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh. She originally supported Bernie Sanders and was not very excited about Joe Biden. But she hopes that some of the progressive candidates who won House seats this year -- and a surge of grassroots energy in once solidly red states like Georgia -- will change the political landscape.

“Seeing what happened in Georgia and how it was so close, and how [former gubernatorial candidate and political organizer] Stacey Abrams was able to mobilize and do all that stuff with so many voters, I’m hoping moving forward there’s more grassroots level and local politicians that educate their communities and that will go further,” she said.

But for now, Henry’s optimistic about Biden’s plans to address climate change and end the coronavirus pandemic.

“I know I was being very cynical about this election, but I was surprised by how happy I was” after Biden was declared the winner, she said. “Even though the pandemic's not going to go away and school’s still going to be hard, it's nice to have that extra one ounce of happiness knowing that Trump isn't in office.”

Henry thinks that the Biden administration will be able to handle the coronavirus pandemic better than Trump, which gives her hope for finding jobs and internships after she graduates.

“That's really hard to do with the pandemic,” she said. “But with Biden and Harris, the possibility that things might get better is more of a possibility instead of a dream that we'd think about because with the Trump administration, as you can see, things were terrible. But hopefully the new administration will be stricter and hopefully things will get better.”

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Credit Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA
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Republican Ed Cwiklinski lives in the South Hills.

Not everyone is so upbeat about the future.

Republican Ed Cwiklinski is in his forties and lives in Bethel Park. He thinks the final vote count will show that Trump lost. He said while he’s sad to lose Trump, he can live with the loss. But his belief that the media has tried to destroy Trump will make life during the Biden administration even harder.

“We're going to hear about the best man in the whole wide world,” Cwiklinski said. “And that's going to be hard to take after four years of watching Trump being maligned every day.”

For his part, Cwiklinski said, “I believe Trump to be one of the most honest politicians that we have had in recent history."

Cwiklinski expects Trump to leave office peacefully next month. But he said that doesn’t mean Trump is done with politics.

“So I’ll say Trump 2024,” he said. “That he comes back and says, ‘Do you miss me yet?’”

This is the final piece in a yearlong series. You can find the other stories in Split Ticket here.