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Lehigh Valley Election News

Thousands expected in Schnecksville for Donald Trump campaign rally Saturday

Terrick flag sales.jpg
Tom Shortell
Linda Terrick, of Whitehall Township, showcases one of the Donald Trump flags she's selling off the sidewalk along Route 329. She plans to be one of thousands of supporters attending the former president's campaign rally in North Whitehall Township on Saturday.

WHITEHALL TWP, Pa. — In the shadow of the Holcim cement plant Tuesday, Linda Terrick set up her merchandise.

From a small folding table, she hawked flags and hats promoting former President Donald Trump's re-election campaign.

“God, guns and Trump,” proclaimed a flag zip-tied to a construction sign. “Trump 2024: The Sequel,” read one of the hats.

Sales along her small patch of grass along Route 329 have been so-so, Terrick said. While she planned to use the proceeds to supplement her disability benefits, Terrick said she's also a passionate backer of Trump.

Another term for the former president would allow him to crack down on illegal immigration and crime that she said President Joe Biden has allowed to flourish.

“The government is [expletive] up right now, and you can quote me on that,” she said, repeating false claims that the government is providing undocumented immigrants with cars and guns.

“Trump is a true businessman. He knows how to run the country,” she said.

Demand running high

Terrick said she's already picked up two tickets to Trump's rally at the Schnecksville Fire Hall in North Whitehall Township on Saturday night. His campaign announced the rally Friday.

She's eager to attend her first political rally, she said.

Terrick is far from alone.

Lehigh County Republican Committee Chairman Joe Vichot said his organization has been coordinating for the event with the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. The local committee, he said, will be providing volunteers to arrange the parking, set up and cleanup.

The groups are expecting 5,000 to 6,000 people at the outdoor rally off Route 309. Nearby Shankweiler's Drive-In had planned a 90th anniversary celebration for Saturday but moved it to Sunday after the rally was scheduled.

“It could be a heck of a lot bigger than that. I assume there's going to be a lot more people showing up than there's room,” Vichot said Tuesday.

Trump has always commanded tremendous support from his base, but Vichot said he's seeing higher levels of support this election cycle. Vichot said he's hearing from more younger voters who sat out the first matchup between Biden and Trump and don't intend to do so again, he said.

“The excitement is probably bigger than 2020. People are actually wanting signs already. We're telling people this is just the primary,” he said.

A battleground

Trump is no stranger to the Lehigh Valley. During his 2020 campaign, he made two stops in the region, visiting businesses in Hanover Township, Northampton County, and Upper Macungie Township. He previously earned an honorary degree from Lehigh University, though the school rescinded that in 2021 following the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump is not the only one with eyes on this region. Over the past decade, political VIPs have worn out a path between the Lehigh Valley and Washington.

Trump, Biden, then-vice presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Mike Pence and other surrogates have made it a point to appear before local voters. Political observers have attributed the visits to the region's growing importance in national politics.

The narrow divide in party registration among local voters has made it a swing region within a purple state. With few politically competitive regions across the country, the major parties have realized that carrying the region can influence who gets to roam the halls of power in the Capitol.

Power broker

It may not hurt that North Whitehall Township is also the stomping grounds of Bill Bachenberg.

His business, Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays, is renting the fire hall for the rally, according to a fire hall official. A voicemail seeking comment left with the sporting clay business Tuesday afternoon was not returned.

“This is a microcosm of Pennsylvania. If the Republican Party can do well in the Lehigh Valley, that will reflect throughout Pennsylvania. I think President Trump understands that.”
Joe Vichot

Bachenberg, a former board member of the NRA and former tech company CEO, has become one of the region's most prominent political financiers and a powerful advocate for Trump.

Bachenberg chaired a group of alternate electors who attempted to flip Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes to Trump in 2020, according to federal documents; he was later subpoenaed by the U.S. House Jan. 6 Select Committee.

According to a $10 million lawsuit filed in federal court, Bachenberg provided a $1 million line-of-credit for a cybersecurity firm to investigate allegations of voter fraud in Michigan. He's since been accused of stiffing the firm on the bill after it failed to turn up any evidence.

Vichot acknowledged Bachenberg's growing sway in Trump circles and his role supporting the rally.

But he was certain that campaign officials recognized how vital the Lehigh Valley could be as Trump seeks his return to the Oval Office.

“This is a microcosm of Pennsylvania. If the Republican Party can do well in the Lehigh Valley, that will reflect throughout Pennsylvania. I think President Trump understands that,” Vichot said.