‘The constitution is at stake’: In a tiny SWPA borough, voters raise their voices

By: - November 3, 2020 12:08 pm

NEW ALEXANDRIA, Pa. — A small white building with a war memorial out front is this Westmoreland County borough of 560 people’s only polling place.

By mid-morning on Tuesday, more than 100 people had voted, according to their poll numbers.

The Community Hall in New Alexandria, Pa. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

“That’s really high,” Chris Mateiya, the municipality’s recently retired judge of elections, told the Capital-Star right after voting.

The 65-year-old voted in-person to check in on her successor and to see if they had any questions. Everything was running smoothly, Mateiya said.

She voted for Biden, and other Democrats in the area. Among them is Rep. Joe Petrarca, D-Westmoreland, one of the last of a dying breed of Harrisburg Blue Dogs.

He’s often run unopposed in this district that Trump won with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2016. That same year, Petrarca beat his last challenger 56-44 percent.

Petrarca holding on will be key to Democrats flipping the Pa. House, as they hope for this year. 

But it’s hard to say if high presidential turnout helps or hurts. Most of the voters who came out in a steady trickle said they voted straight Republican.

Jane Parker, 64, who works as a consultant for the insurance industry, said she used to back Democrats, including Petrarca.

He and his family name are a fixture in this area. A Petrarca has represented the district since 1973.

But Parker said as she thinks Democrats will tax her to give free things to undocumented immigrants or people who don’t work, who will set around “drinking mint juleps.”

So, in recent years, including Tuesday , she voted straight-ticket Republican.

“I’m scared to death [Democratic nominee Joe] Biden will get in,” Parker said. She thinks he can only win from fraud.

But ticket splitting may still have some role. Dan Dishond, 56, voted because the “constitution is at stake.” 

He declined to say for whom he voted. But, it included candidates from both parties, because the country needs “some checks and balances.”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.