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Pa. Swing District Voters Hope Impeachment Doesn't Overshadow Other Issues


I'm Noel King in Washington, D.C., where a lot of people are riveted by the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. But what are people in the rest of the country thinking? NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is just back from a swing district north of Philly, and she's with me in studio. Hi, Claudia.


KING: OK, so it makes sense to go to a swing district, but why did you pick this particular one?

GRISALES: Well, I visited a district representative - represented by Congresswoman Susan Wild. She's a freshman lawmaker for a labor-heavy area in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. Her district, in particular, was redrawn, and she flipped it from red to blue during the 2018 midterm elections. However, Trump won the state in 2016, so Wild didn't jump on the impeachment wagon right away. She just issued her support last week, and it could possibly give a window into how other swing districts are approaching this impeachment debate. And it was definitely a departure from the impeachment news bubble here. And Wild wants her constituents to know that unlike these D.C. conversations, this won't dominate her time. And she reiterated that point at a town hall last night.


SUSAN WILD: And I assure you that my work on education and labor is not going to stop because there is an impeachment inquiry happening.

GRISALES: So this was Wild's first chance to visit with voters to gauge their reactions on her shift in position. She says she reached her impeachment decision after weighing the new whistleblower revelations against her oath to uphold the Constitution and signed on. Wild knows voters want to talk about things like climate change and health care and education, and she doesn't want impeachment to suck all the oxygen out of these other pressing matters.

KING: OK, so let's talk about what the voters told you - right? - because they're not in the D.C. bubble. So when you spoke to them about the inquiry, what did they say? Do they care? Do they not care?

GRISALES: They do care, but there's other issues that matter more to them. I went to Wild's meeting with labor leaders at the Teamsters Local 773 in Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, and it was a large, packed gathering that I also saw at a downtown Allentown church, and they wanted to talk about things like worker safety and early education. And impeachment hardly came up. Instead, voters are worried about how to improve concerns about health insurance, or even prescription drugs.

And I talked to one of those constituents. Her name was Anne Radakovits, and she represents federal, county and local workers. She says she's impressed with Wild's ability to juggle concerns about impeachment but still keep her needs front and center.

ANNE RADAKOVITS: I need some kind of support to know that she's going to do what she can to guarantee the kind of future that I can have so that I can live like my grandparents do. I can retire. I can have stability. And I can do that with dignity.

GRISALES: So other voters I spoke to were on the same page. They applauded Wild for taking a patient approach to the inquiry and not jumping on the bandwagon right away.

KING: You also spoke to some people who just don't support the inquiry, right?

GRISALES: Yes, I spoke to one voter who voted - he supports Trump. David Potter - he's an engineer, father to four. And he calls himself an ex-Democrat. And he came out to Wild's event on education at the downtown Allentown church. And while he voted for her GOP opponent, he wanted to hear from her when it came to education. So he shared something with the Democrats I talked to. He wanted to keep the focus off impeachment. He said Trump opponents need to come up with their own way to make America great and not waste time fighting with the president.

DAVID POTTER: I think that's a move that could destroy the United States because I think it undermines the basic process of what the president is supposed to do.

GRISALES: Potter also said he may vote for Wild, but if she votes for impeachment, he'll vote for the Republican.

KING: Oh, that's really interesting. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales, thank you so much.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.