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Towns along the Susquehanna River are filled with people whose grandparents worked in coal mines, garment factories and small manufacturing companies. But those jobs are long gone in Luzerne County, and Wilkes-Barre, the county seat, has seen its population drop by more than half. Dozens of public officials have fallen to scandal. All of which helps explain how Ed Harry who, at 70, has spent most of his working life as a union president and a Democratic party activist, running phone banks for candidates and even serving as a delegate for Bill Clinton in 1992 became an unlikely apostle for Donald Trump. When the billionaire businessman and reality TV star entered the presidential race, "I laughed, like everyone else," Harry says. Then he took note of Trump's opposition. "The Rs said they hated him, the Ds wanted no part of him, the lobbyists didn't like him. China came out against him, India came out against him, Mexico came out against him. "And I said, 'I think I might have a candidate.'" Harry, who had grown disillusioned with what he saw as Washington's broken and corrupt politics, switched parties, publicly endorsed Trump and resigned his labor post. He expects the new president to renegotiate trade deals and reduce corporate taxes, which he believes will help lure back manufacturing jobs. And he is not alone. In Luzerne County, Trump crushed Hillary Clinton by 20 points in no small part because lifelong Democrats like Harry believed she was the candidate of Wall Street, ignoring the working class while taking its vote for granted. As Trump enters office, these largely older, white, blue- collar voters want him to keep his promise on manufacturing jobs, rebuild deteriorating roads and bridges, crack down on illegal immigration and "drain the swamp." "There's no hope the way things were," Harry explains. "It had to be something different." And listen to Tom Pikas, who is also counting on Trump to bring change. The 61-year-old Wilkes-Barre native remembers a time when you could easily get a decent-paying job right out of high school.
He worked in a shoe factory, then for an electrical contractor, and downtown Wilkes-Barre pulsed with life. "This used to be a nice town," Pikas says. More recently, Pikas has toiled in a series of temp jobs, the last one paying USD 8 an hour. Now looking for work, he found himself at the unemployment office this month, enrolling in a jobs program for seniors. The waiting area was packed. He has faith that Trump will find a way to turn things around, but also counsels patience. "Some people expect he's gonna do miracles the first month," Pikas says. "No. No. You gotta at least give the guy a year.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)