IIn the Waldameer large ballroom, John Ventre walks from table to table and hands flyers to the elderly: “John – never Socialist – Ventre for Governor” is written in large letters on the prospectus. He makes small talk with the Republicans who met last Friday in October at the amusement park on Lake Erie, northwest Pennsylvania. A few days after the meeting, the citizens of the district of Erie are called to decide on the filling of their municipal offices.
In odd years, when neither the president nor the congress is elected, new mayors, sheriffs, and county chiefs are appointed in many places in America. One or the other governor post is also being filled. Pennsylvania will not have gubernatorial elections until next year. John Ventre is already campaigning for himself. The primaries will finally be in the spring of next year. And the former UPS manager from Westmoreland County in southeast Pittsburgh wants to make himself known in the state. So he came to Erie, where Republicans met to campaign for their local political candidates.
“Nobody is like Trump like me”
Ventre sees Verel Salmon, the district chairman of the Republicans, standing in a group of people and introduces himself: He’s going to be governor, he says, and extends his hand to the host. Salmon smiles slightly pained and turns back to other party friends. Ventre gets the message and moves on. Ten Republicans have now thrown their hats into the ring for the “primaries” for the governor’s post in Harrisburg. The majority of them are entirely on Trump’s line. “Nobody is like Donald Trump like me,” says Ventre. “I’m originally from Queens in New York. I know what makes the man tick. ”He talks about how Trump’s election victory was stolen. And how some Republicans helped get Joe Biden into the White House.
It’s not entirely clear whether Ventre is aware of it: but one of the Republicans he means is Verel Salmon. After the presidential election a year ago, what happened across Pennsylvania happened in Erie County. An appeal was published on the district party’s Facebook page calling for a review of the election results. After all, election night in Erie County had gone like it did in Pennsylvania as a whole: when the votes cast on election day were counted, Republicans were clearly ahead. Then the postal votes were counted – and the result turned. That was no surprise, because the Democrats had mostly shied away from going to the polling station because of the pandemic. For Trump and his family, however, the event served as evidence of “massive electoral fraud”.
Salmon was surprised at the time by the petition on the Facebook page. The party has not yet officially submitted an application, he told the local press. It was an uncoordinated action, although he was not averse to a review. After consulting the legal advisor of his district party, Salmon came to the conclusion that there had been no electoral fraud – at least none that had any influence on the final result. In view of Trump’s electoral fraud, he and the Democratic district chairman published a statement shortly before the election date in which both expressed confidence in the local electoral commission. Not every Republican was happy about it. Since then, Salmon has tried to somehow hold his party together. But the pressure from the Trump base is growing.