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Women In Philadelphia Suburbs Emerge As Key Voter Bloc In Swing State Of Pennsylvania

Karyn Stone (left) and Shannon Lelly (right). (Photos by Ciku Theuri)
Karyn Stone (left) and Shannon Lelly (right). (Photos by Ciku Theuri)

At first glance, it’s hard to tell how Bucks County, Pennsylvania, leans politically. 

Along winding roads lined with beautiful fall foliage, there’s a diversity of political signs. Doylestown, the seat of Bucks County, was the last stop of a pro-Trump parade that clashed with Biden supportersdemonstrating in a women’s march a few weeks ago. 

Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, says Bucks County has deep Republican roots, but it’s overwhelmingly white, more educated and wealthy, which is why it’s become more politically competitive. Borick says suburban women are capable of moving the needle. 

“We’ve seen suburban Philadelphia become increasingly Democratic after a century-plus of being Republican,” Borick says.

While Trump has made recent attempts to reach women in Bucks County, recent polls show Biden with a leadamong this voting bloc. 

For Shannon Lelly, a Republican mom of four and the owner of a Planet Smoothie location in Doylestown, this will be her second time voting for Trump. She plans to do so in person on Election Day, and while she admits that Trump’s behavior and rhetoric haven’t always been exemplary, she says he’s better than the alternative. 

“Biden is completely fake, and I, like, can’t even stand it,” she says. “I’d rather somebody who’s just real than a fake because you don’t know what’s going on behind the facade.” 

As a Christian, Lelly says she’s against abortion and pleased with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. And as a small business owner, Lelly says she’s benefited from Trump’s tax policy.

Karyn Stone, a Democrat voting for Joe Biden who works at a boutique nearby, says she has also benefited from Trump’s economic policies. Stone says she’s voted for candidates outside of her party before, and considered giving Trump the opportunity to change her mind, until recently.  

“The way he handled himself during the first debate … I wanted to give him a chance. I thought maybe things could change for the better. But that hasn’t happened,” Stone says of Trump. 

Trump’s message of law and order has resonated with smoothie shop owner Lelly.

“I know there is absolutely still racism in this country. I do not deny that, but when cops are coming into my store scared for their life, now, that’s not OK,” she says, “so when you disrespect and you have no respect for authority, we are going to crumble.”

But Lelly is in the minority on this issue. A recent Reuters/Ipsos pollfound only 11% of white people in suburbs across the country consider civil unrest and Trump’s tough-on-crime stance to be major issues.

President Trump is expected back in Bucks County Saturday as he seeks to secure enough votes to make a difference in this crucial swing state.


Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Chris Ballman. Elie Levine adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.