Erie, PA: The Gateway to Victory in America

For statewide candidates and presidential contenders, Erie stands as the hidden key for victory in the Keystone State, yet it also is the hidden gem that holds our collective resurgence as well.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency by securing Pennsylvania’s crucial 20 Electoral College votes. This political feat—the first time a Republican won Pennsylvania since 1988—wasn’t possible without Erie County, which foreshadowed the state’s shifting voting patterns

Four years later, just days before the election, both Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden—a Pennsylvania native—understand the significant role that Erie plays in winning the state. As Trump declared at a recent rally in Erie: “if we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole thing…” 

Perhaps it’s time for us to understand the value of Erie in restoring our commonwealth for the nation. 

In 2016, Erie—like so many cities and towns—needed a transformation. A proud town full of honest, hard-working, and lovable people, the Lake City glistens as a gem of Pennsylvania during its warmer months, while it epitomizes resiliency during its famously brutal winters. Sadly, the city of 95,000 reflects the downward trends afflicting many communities in Pennsylvania and throughout the Rust Belt: industrial decline, talent drain, and an outmigration of its younger residents. As a result, Erie saw roughly 33% of its population disappear in 60 years. Yet, with its natural resources, prime location, emerging diversity, and institutional knowledge, Erie should be primed for a renaissance that shines like the bay in June. 

Politicians know that the path to a Pennsylvania victory runs through Erie. Yet, if we are to win the future in the Keystone State—and America—we must collectively find a way to win back the hopes and dreams of families in places like Erie. We should look to this Great Lakes region as a place to live, learn, work, play, and retire. 

Indeed, this region—shaped by its industrial history and legacy of family-owned businesses—is capable of inexpensive civic growth, affordable living possibilities, and entrepreneurial opportunities. Situated in the state’s northwest corner—and founded by one of the nation’s first water commerce highways—Erie is suited to be a 21st century hub for e-commerce and interstate business, from tourism to trade. With its resilient blue-collar roots, this gateway to the Midwest could fuel a resurgence of American manufacturing, working-class living, and cross-sector economic interwovenness. Pennsylvania’s potential is exemplified by the untapped possibilities waiting to be unearthed in Erie. 

Erie is ready to be renewed. Erie is ready to lead. Erie is ready for the right policies and the right leaders to foster a new direction. That must come in the form of educational equity that empowers the diverse youth in a region that needs their talents to be developed and honed for lifelong opportunities in the city. That must come in the form of business regulations that foster economic revitalization and downstream job creation. That must come in the form of civic engagement that welcomes the disenfranchised and the downtrodden back in the fold of a succeeding society. If there is a place where the discouraged can become the burgeoning, it is in a city that has been downtrodden for a season but is prepared for its second season.

Erie is ready to win. In the end, if we secure the public policies that re-open this gateway on the lake in the days to come, it will not just be one set of candidates winning the Keystone State or another in November; it will be the Commonwealth winning back a common success story for the common good.