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Yorkers feel the Bern, stump for Trump

Greg Gross
  • Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were seen as unlikely candidates

Less than a year ago, politicos all but assumed the 2016 presidential election would be a sort of re-do of the 1992 election, pitting a Bush against a Clinton.

Bernie Sanders supporter Melanie Thompson of Fairview Township talks about the election. Bill Kalina photo

But since then, perceived Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, is out of the race and former first lady Hillary Clinton is in a close race on the Democratic side.

Gaining headlines and support are two men seen as anti-establishment candidates: Republican businessman Donald Trump and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

"He just spoke to me. It was wonderful to hear somebody discuss topics that are of interest and with such passion and speaking for people," said Melanie Thompson, a Fairview Township resident who supports Sanders. "I described myself as far to the left as I could possibly be without being a socialist. Well, now I kind of think I might be a Democratic socialist."

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, and his wave Jane acknowledge the crowd as he arrives for his caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

And The Donald is inspiring many on the other side of the spectrum.

"When Trump announced, I switched to him because he's not a politician," said Tom Smith of West Manchester Township. "He's a successful businessman. He created tens of thousands of jobs."

Outsiders: Electing political outsiders to office is nothing new in York County.

In 2014, Republican businessman Scott Wagner became the first person in state history to win an election — a special election to fill former Sen. Mike Waugh's seat — for Senate as a write-in candidate. He was subsequently elected to a full-term that same year.

Also in 2014, another York County businessman, this one a Democrat, won another election in historic fashion. Tom Wolf became the first person in modern history to unseat an incumbent governor when he handily defeated Republican Tom Corbett.

Neither Wagner nor Wolf held elected office before their 2014 wins.

That could bode well with Trump and possibly Sanders, their supporters said.

"People are just fed up with the government," Smith said. "They just don't want (any) more politicians."

Donald Trump supporter Tom Smith of West Manchester Township talks about the election. Bill Kalina photo

"I think people are starting to see that there is a hierarchy and that they have pulled up the ladder that everybody used to try to reach for and get a foot on. We used to try to help each other to get up the ladder and now it just seem like everybody's being kept from the ladder," Thompson said.

Candidates: Smith became so smitten with Trump that he circulated nomination petitions to get him on the ballot for the April 26 Pennsylvania primary.

"I believe he's the most conservative out of all them. That's what drew me to him," Smith said. "Trump has a record of success."

George Margetas, of West Manchester Township, has also been firmly in the Trump camp from the start and is looking to the non-politician to end political gridlock in Washington, D.C. He's not worried Trump's brash persona will get in the way of getting things done.

Business people have to compromise in their work but they also have to make executive decisions, Margetas noted.

"I think when the time comes he's going to surround himself with smart people," he said. "He would go in there and get the right people"

On the other side, Chris Gendron, of Fairview Township, is  feelin' the Bern.

"He's the first politician in a very long time who's addressing issues that are important to all Americans," he said, adding Sanders is the only candidate who wants to reinvest in the middle class by changing the tax structure so that richer Americans pay a great share.

Eye to eye:  Though Trump has been a very vocal candidate, holding rallies filled with boisterous crowds, Thompson said she thinks there is an equally large, if not larger, number of Sanders supporters waiting in the wings.

"Hopefully, there are millions of us that have enough passion to make a lot of changes," she said.

It's doubtful Trump and Sanders can agree on much, in anything, when it comes to political ideology but supporters agree the person they want in the White House is not the run-of-the-mill politician.

"I think a lot of people are looking at this as the end of business as usual," Gendron said.

"I get where the Bernie people are coming from. People are frustrated," Margetas said.

— Reach Greg Gross at