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Rural Pennsylvania turns more red, but is it enough for Trump?

Salena Zito on

BETHEL PARK, Pennsylvania -- Just a few short months ago, if you had driven down Baptist Road in this middle-class southern suburb of Pittsburgh, it would have been hard to miss the Bernie Sanders shrine filling the yard of a tidy, yellow-brick ranch home. There was the life-size cutout of the former presidential candidate, a large, homemade "FEEL THE BERN" sign along the berm of the road, a few "Bernie 2020" and "Get Berned" signs, as well as a lively decorated mailbox plastered with Bernie bumper stickers.

Sometime between the Pennsylvania primary in June (when Democratic voters gave Joe Biden their support) and last week, the shrine came down, replaced by one lone yard sign reading, "GIANT METEOR 2020."

Sometimes, disappointing primary election results frustrate voters so much they walk away from their party's nominee. They traditionally decide to do one of three things: sit it out, vote third party or join the opposing party.

Few hope for a meteor to strike the Earth as an option -- but, hey, it's 2020, and we all get it.

Last week, a flurry of elected officials in southwestern Pennsylvania, most of them county sheriffs, chose the last of the traditional options, deciding that after lifelong affiliations with the Democratic Party, they had seen enough change to make them walk away.

In 2008, there were nearly double the number of registered Democrats over Republicans in Westmoreland County, and James Albert was one of them. He had already been elected district judge as a Democrat for over a dozen years, and he would vote for Barack Obama that cycle and again in 2012.

 

Albert first served his community as a local police officer and then as a county detective and a deputy sheriff before running for district judge. He came out of a short-lived retirement last year and won the race for sheriff as a Democrat.

Today, there are more registered Republicans in Westmoreland County, and Sheriff Albert is one of them. It is a decision he says he took seriously as he watched his party of birth leave less and less room for his pro-life and pro-Second Amendment values with each passing year.

When the party started walking away from supporting law enforcement, Albert had had enough. "What really convinced me," he says, "was the past few months as the country has witnessed these riots where we saw the looting of businesses or arson attacks or the destruction of property, as well as assaults on innocent citizens and attacks on law enforcement. That bothered me. I've for 40 years (been) connected to law enforcement in my life, and it really bothered me."

"Then, David Dorn was killed." Dorn, a retired police officer, was fatally shot during looting in St. Louis in June.

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