President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters at the New York Hilton Midtown on election night. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is at left.

Nobody expected the 2016 Presidential election to come down to Pennsylvania, but it did. Hillary Clinton lost roughly by 65,000 votes. And Donald Trump’s dominance in basically everywhere except Eastern Pennsylvania; the votes he drew from the commonwealth’s urban centers secured him a statewide win that no Republican had accomplished since 1988. Plus, as AP reporter Marc Levy noted, this is the first time since 1976 that anyone has won PA while losing Philly and its suburban counties.

Area Republicans are motivated, not to mention seriously encouraged, about this win. Not as many Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton as they did for Barack Obama. But more Republicans voted for Donald Trump than voted for Mitt Romney. Romney didn’t win a single Philly ward. Trump won three, and had an impressive turnout, relatively speaking, in several others.

Nearly one in six Philadelphia voters picked Trump. In the ’burbs, it was near one in four and one in five.

So we talked to three Philly voters who went Trump. We asked, in detail, why they voted the way they did. Here’s what they said, edited and condensed for length and clarity. We did not fact check these statements; these are these voters’ points of view.

Bryan Leib.
Bryan Leib. Credit: Facebook

Bryan Leib

31, white, Center City, leasing specialist for campus apartments

I think he’s a president that [will] create jobs. I like the idea of having a business approach to the operations of government, not the actual service and outreach, but the operations of government. And reducing taxes. And I like the cut-and-slash mentality that he has, I think it could be really effective.

Last year, I worked for Senator Tony Williams on his mayoral campaign. A couple months after the campaign ended, I started to really reevaluate the things that matter to me and my core values. I made the switch from the Democratic party to the Republican party.

As I looked at my core values, they’ve always been very Republican. What I mean by that is: very fiscally conservative, very much believ[ing] in reducing the size of government and reducing taxes. So, as I started to look at some of the things that were important to me, that have always been important to me— just kind of hit me like a ton of bricks.

In the city of Philadelphia, I’m sure you’re aware of what the numbers look like from a registration standpoint. Being a Republican in the city of Philadelphia is, in my opinion, a very difficult thing to do. But I looked at who I am, and I spoke to the party. They said, ‘You know, Bryan, you sound like you’re Republican.’ And I said, ‘Well, what about things like LGBT rights.’ And they said, ‘We’re for LGBT rights.’

Trump, similar to me, he was a Democrat at one time.

[Trump’s ideals] just got me excited. And living in the city of Philadelphia, really this whole region as a whole— I’m born and raised in this region (Note: Leib is from Voorhees)— I’ve seen the way one-party rule has served us. Not just Philadelphia, but South Jersey as well.

Philadelphia voters line up to vote on Election Day 2016.
Philadelphia voters line up to vote on Election Day 2016.

There were other Republican candidates that I did like, but once he became the party nominee, I didn’t consider voting for anyone besides him.

I don’t agree with everything he has said, but I do think the mainstream media has blown a lot of the things out of proportion. One of the common things that I’ve heard is that he’s anti-Semitic, that he’s against Jews. And I’m an American Jew. I just look at statements that people make that he’s anti-Semitic, and I look at the fact that his daughter converted to Judaism. She’s raising Jewish kids. I look at Trump’s company— he has many Jewish Americans that are on his executive team. He’s always been a very, very big supporter of the state of Israel. So I think that’s kind of a microcosm of the situation as a whole. I certainly can’t speak to what his support is like with Mexicans. I don’t think he’s a racist. I wouldn’t have voted for a racist.

I am pro-LGBT… I don’t want to speak for the party, but I feel that they are very open to gay and lesbian rights as well… Just for me personally, I have a lot of friends that identify as gay or lesbian. I’ve always looked at people as human beings.

In the city of Philadelphia, we might as well have invented the word corruption. Corruption is so widespread here. I hate to point fingers here, but the majority of the corruption here is coming from Democrat elected officials. If I can just for example bring up the former Congressman Chaka Fattah. You have a sitting congressman who is indicted and the entire party endorsed him. I don’t know how any Democrat can square themselves around the fact that their party continued to support someone who was indicted.

I’ve certainly heard what the Vice-President-elect, Mr. Pence has had to say [on LGBT conversion therapy.] I can’t tell you I agree with what he’s had to say… But … we needed a president who could be a job creator, who had business experience, who could cut and slash through a lot of the corruption and a lot of the status quo that we have going on throughout our country right now. I didn’t see any other candidate that could potentially do that.

Donny Smith.
Donny Smith. Credit: Facebook

Donny Smith

50, white, Northeast Philly, aquarium designer

[I was] looking to relieve the tension that’s going on the country right now. It seems like things are just getting real wound up. It just seems like the easiest way to unwind a rubber band is to stop doing what we’re doing.

I’m hopeful. I just think it’s time for a change, something different. It didn’t seem like [where] we were going was necessarily in the right direction. It just seemed like Secretary Clinton was going to keep heading us down this dark road. And it was making me nervous, so I think that’s the reason why I voted for Donald Trump.

I think there’s a lot of tension right now in the country over a lot different things. You know, I think it’s um, stupid things. Even silly things that just, you know, divide the country. Common Core math. Just one stupid example, you know what I mean. Just gets people all wound up. It seems as though the police departments didn’t seem to have a lot of support from the feds. It seems like their hands were tied in a lot of situations. It just feels tense. America just feels tense. Like they’re waiting for this big shoe to drop. It doesn’t feel comfortable, doesn’t feel right. It just seemed like the best way to relieve the pressure was to go in a different direction.

We have a bunch of people blocking traffic and stopping roads. And there’s upheaval in America, there’s craziness that’s going on right now. It’s gotta stop. I just saw things continuing to get worse and I didn’t see anybody stepping in to cap it, or to control it, or contain it or whatever, you know? And the people that are put into positions to try and do it, seemed like they were unable to for one reason or another. I didn’t see an end in sight at all. I’m a guy who gets up in the morning and goes to work… whatever their reason is, I’m not saying that it’s wrong, if I can’t come to work because there’s a bunch of people in the middle of the road that won’t let me through, or worse yet, are harassing the family, or harassing me— It’s not right, it’s not good.

I think there’s a time and a place for things like that. And unfortunately, I just didn’t see that happen. I don’t know that Trump is going to fix it. I just saw more of the same by not voting for Trump.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence shake hands after Trump’s speech during the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena.
GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence shake hands after Trump’s speech during the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena.

I think [claims that he’s a bigot are] just a lot of crap. Look, I don’t know the guy personally. I don’t know anybody, unless you’re in his inner circle, that knows him personally. So you have to pretty much go with what you see. If I read it correctly… he was one of the first guys to hire a woman to run his projects for him. That’s huge.

His daughter, she’s Jewish now… He’s definitely not a polished politician, there’s no question about that… He can be pretty harsh. But at the end of the day, I guess what resonated the most with me was— I’m sure Mr. Trump has no idea how to lay a piece of steel into a foundation. However, he was smart enough to find the right people to do that. I’m hopeful he’ll do the right thing when it comes to running the country.

I’ll be shocked if I see a wall go up. I really will. I think he resonated with a lot of people that are living along those fronts… Is everyone that’s coming into this country a criminal? I seriously doubt it. However, I can definitely appreciate and agree with him: He’s not stopping people from coming into the country, he just wants them to come in legally. I can get that. I’m clearly on board with that. You look at any other country, they’re the same way.

I think he said a lot of things that just resonated with people. He’s not going drive around and start rounding people up, and throw them out of the country— it’s not going to happen.

I understand that everyone wants to paint him as a loose cannon. Hopefully he doesn’t. I’m not saying he’s perfect. (Laughs.) At the end of the day, you had your choice of two people to pick.

Hillary won the popular vote. And Trump won the electoral college. The country’s pretty divided, hopefully, we can all come together now and everybody can be cool.

It seems like there’s a bunch of things that were put in place to just divide people, and it’s sad. I think certain things unite people, and certain things divide them. I don’t think there were a lot of people who were necessarily disappointed with gay marriage, or whatever. I think there were a lot who were disappointed with men and women using each other’s bathrooms.

Unfortunately, it just seems as though there was more division than there was good reason.

Martha Russell.
Martha Russell

Martha Russell

61, black, Blue Bell, retired educator

My biggest concern was to avoid having Hillary Clinton in the White House. The destruction of Libya was very heart-wrenching to me. And then of course recently the email content showing, confirming that the destruction of Libya was certain, which was definitely not the reason that they gave for going in. It was an excellent, wonderful country that was just destroyed. Just destroyed. And I do believe that vacuum that was made there did accord the emergence of ISIS. And then to see Syria. The exact same thing being repeated in Syria!

I tried. So many times, in so many ways to figure out a way to support her. But throughout her entire campaign, she continued to speak of the no-fly zone, which I knew would cause destruction with Russia. And she continued to point to Russia for all the problems she was having.

I’m a Sanders supporter. I was Sanders from the beginning. I started studying Sanders, and I was disheartened when he lost. And I was kinda sad that the black community never was able to understand who Sanders was.

The caveat is the more I started studying Trump and watching him, I watched him transform from the first day he threw his hat in the ring, which I thought was hilarious. Never would be. Never could come out to any real fruit. And to watch that happen. To watch his popularity just grow was kind of scary to me for a while during the primary. And then I watched the Republicans fall apart…

[There are issues] that Trump has I do not support. The immigration issue, I have mixed feelings about it.

His position with Muslims is a concern for me. For his supporters. Once I decided I was going to support him and my vote was going to go towards him, I had to start going to his pages to study and see what are his supporters saying on some of the conservative news stations. And some of the things they really are rallying for, they’re rallying more aggressively than I actually believe his position was. Muslims was one. I knew some of the supporters were just… prejudiced against Islamic people, broad brush. Instead of recognizing that the Islamic terrorism is very different, like other religious terrorism is different. I don’t want to go there because I think there’s Semitic terrorism going against the Palestinians.

Those are the kind of things I pray he’ll come more to the center about.

Donald Trump supporters watch the election results come in at New York Hilton Midtown on election night.
Donald Trump supporters watch the election results come in at New York Hilton Midtown on election night. Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY NETWORK

What does Trump push for that I like? In a way, he started to sound like Sanders after a while, and I got kind of tickled by that. But what I think Sanders and Trump represent, and the beginning of our election primary showed, is that Americans overall are really tired of the two political systems and the political infrastructure.

Masses of people were hoping for something new and fresh in the White House. Unfortunately, mine’s was a lot lower scope. I just did not want war. And I just saw war. As clear as a bell. And I did not know how we were going to avoid it if Hillary Clinton won. I have young sons; I just did not want a real massive war which I saw coming forward.

My son that’s in college, he’s 23. We went at it for days; we went at it for weeks. He would bring up some very, very good points. I was very tunnel-visioned. I just saw war.

When I said I had to stop and examine Trump, and see if there were any issues surrounding him that told me no, I could not vote for him, and I came up with none? [Bigotry] was the kind of topic I had to look at as well. I had to separate the Trump that the world created or talked about and the Trump that we were dealing with based on what he had written about and statements he actually made. He made some horrific statements about a whole lot of stuff.

I recognize that he’s not a politically correct person. I think that kind of drew me to him too. Because I used to say that when he was in the primary. I never thought I would ever consider voting for him. I was so sure Sanders was going to win. But I remember some of the comments he would say sometimes and I would laugh and say, ‘Oh God, I’m really starting to like this guy.’ Because he was so blunt and so factual about things, that he would say things that no one who was actually trying to become president would actually have the gall to say because it was so politically incorrect.

I don’t think he’s a racist. I was trying to look for some real evidence of him being a racist, but I do think that he has a lot of prejudices. And he had a whole lot more prejudices at the beginning of his campaign than he did at the end. I think he was being educated by his travels and a lot of his sources. I could just see his tone changing.

I saw his campaign, especially the last few weeks where he made it very clear that Muslims were a very important part of his team.

I was very impressed when he went to Mexico! He had all these things to say about poor Mexicans, and then he went to Mexico. I thought that was a wild card for him. But a smart move to whoever got him there.

So I think I really saw a transition of a person, this candidate, this, you know, president-elect, that made it more palatable for me to vote for him.

He has not shown women the respect that women need to be shown. I believe that was kind of his way of life. No different than our past president Bill Clinton. I think a lot of times, [with] the white male privilege, there’s a belittling of women, and some have enough sense not to do it openly and uncaringly about their public image. Whereas he, as a businessman, had less interest because he wasn’t a politician who would do the same thing and hide it.

I think women who are protesting have every right to protest. I’m not sure what can come out of it, but I think something’s going to come out of it. I think there needs to be a task force that he needs to set on women’s rights and respecting women.

I’m hoping that none of those [sexual harassment/assault] cases are serious…

Pence, I didn’t hear his LGBT comment; I don’t know how I missed that. I found out that he said something today. One of my friends on Facebook mentioned that he had said something when I saw the picture of Trump holding the flag up. Now, I was surprised to see unity, to see him holding that flag up in unity, that’s another example of him coming to the middle.

I don’t know what his stance is, but when he said ‘LGBT community have unity,’ I was just impressed. I would say wow. I wasn’t expecting that at all. But I was happy to see that… I support the LGBT community. My youngest son is transgender.

I know people are born differently… I didn’t expect Trump to accept that or consider that. So if he is willing to consider that, I think that’s a big noble step for him. And even though that subject is very dear to my heart, I, even with his position on that, I was able to still vote for him. That’s how strongly I was against [my son] being called to going to war, or any of my other sons.

Cassie Owens is a reporter/curator for She was assistant editor at Next City and has contributed to Philadelphia City Paper, Metro, the Jewish Daily Forward, The Islamic Monthly and Spoke,...