In a town full of empty and boarded-up storefronts, a small bakery in Nanticoke, Pa., stands out because it’s the only place in town with a lineup.
Ninety-year-old Stella Boblowski comes in from the country for its 75-cent pizza slices that are only available on Wednesdays. She’s not keen to talk about the former coal town’s dwindling population nor the lack of jobs, but she will tell you who she’s going to vote for: Donald Trump.
“You darn tootin’ I am,” Boblowski said. “Biden he does nothing. He’s a crook.”
She’s quickly interrupted by Bob Wozniak, a recent retiree in line behind her. The two have never met.
“Biden isn’t a crook, he pays his taxes,” Wozniak said.
The nonagenarian tells Wozniak he’s listening to “fake news.”
This county, like so many others in the United States of America, is divided — but this small working-class community is different and both candidates know it.
Luzerne County once thrived, but like many northeastern towns in the so-called Rust Belt, it faced tough times in the 1980s and never really recovered. With no major big box store nor hospital, the job prospects here are bleak.
Men and women say they feel forgotten by Washington. It’s a sentiment which turned this historically blue county red, making it into a national symbol of discontent.
Trump trounced then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by more than 17 points here in 2016. That led to his narrow victory in Pennsylvania and, eventually, his White House victory.
“People are tired of him not doing anything,” says 84-year old Kurt Lamoureaux. “I’m voting for Joe Biden…I think he can help us. Not Donald ‘the liar’ Trump”
State Senator John Yudichak saw the sea change coming. He comes from generations of Democrats. His father was a Democratic leader in Luzerne county, while his grandfather worked for the Works Progress Administration, a work program for the unemployed created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
“That’s where my politics were born,” Yudichak said. “That’s the foundation of my politics”
The last election caused a crack in that foundation for Yudichak when Clinton called a portion of Trump supporters “deplorables.”
“When you demonize someone because they go to church on Sunday or because they hunt or are pro-second amendment or pro-life, you are not going to get their vote,” said Yudichak.
“I felt I could no longer be a Democrat and represent those working-class families.”
Now he just had to tell his elderly staunchly Democratic father
“My father said, ‘I’m proud of you, that you’ve made the decision to never forget the working families that got you to where you are. But please don’t become a Republican until I die.’”
Senator Yudichak now sits in the state senate as an independent. He is supporting Biden but thinks Trump will win his coveted county.
“Vice-president Biden is valuing the working-class voter in a way secretary Clinton did not, so I think he has a chance to cut down the margin of victory here in Luzerne County and has a shot at taking Pennsylvania,” Yudichak said.
“If he takes Pennsylvania, he will be the next president of the United States.”
The Trump campaign is planning a massive rally at nearby Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport on Monday, the night before the election. Kamala Harris is expected to make an appearance here on the same night. Joe Biden visited the county last week.