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Trump supporters prepare for today's rally

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Real estate agent Steve Johansen is a Trump supporter who helped establish a Trump campaign office in the Twin Ponds West sports complex in Hampden Township, Cumberland County.
Real estate agent Steve Johansen is a Trump supporter who helped establish a Trump campaign office in the Twin Ponds West sports complex in Hampden Township, Cumberland County. - (Photo / )
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Think of it as a big "coming-out" party. For some midstate supporters, tonight's Harrisburg appearance by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump will be more than a chance to hear their man speak.

His appearance will represent the culmination of efforts to bring Trump to the region by supporters who have been working quietly behind the scenes for months. And for some of them, it will represent a very public show of solidarity they may not have been ready to make even a few months ago.

"We've had a lot of closet Trump supporters come through that door," said Steve Johansen, a Cumberland County real estate agent and volunteer who was the driving force behind the opening of the campaign's midstate office at Twin Ponds West in Hampden Township.

According to Trump's campaign website, the rally is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. The site includes a link for people seeking tickets.

Johansen and a group of friends founded their grassroots "Make America Great" (MAG) political group last fall, when support for Trump was beginning to build, but not everyone was ready to acknowledge the New York billionaire as a legitimate candidate for the White House.

And that previous reticence to go public was common, "especially with business folks, like myself," he explained.

The reticence is receding as Trump's list of victories mounts, and as the April 26 Pennsylvania primary approaches.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne County) and others were on hand to cut the ribbon as the self-funded campaign office Johansen worked to establish held a formal opening ceremony.

Trump supporter Glenn Tolbert, center, of Mount Holly Springs, a veteran and retired department of defense employee trains campaign office call center at the headquarters at Twin Ponds West sports complex in Hampden Township.
Trump supporter Glenn Tolbert, center, of Mount Holly Springs, a veteran and retired department of defense employee trains campaign office call center at the headquarters at Twin Ponds West sports complex in Hampden Township. - ()

By Wednesday afternoon, Johansen said hundreds of people had called or visited looking to help, or for campaign materials such as buttons, lawn signs and T-shirts.

Johansen, 34, said the supporters have ranged from younger adults to people in their 80s.

Twin Ponds co-owner Lisa Vranicar-Patton echoed that theme.

"Young, old, they're from every walk of life," she said.

The common denominator among those at the office Wednesday seemed to be a feeling that Trump would better look after America's economic future than his competitors.

Volunteer Glenn Tolbert, a retired veteran who worked for the Department of Defense for decades, was helping train other volunteers to make campaign calls to get out the vote.

As one who said he had seen much waste and corruption in government spending and procurement, the Mount Holly Springs resident believes Trump would end such practices and also spur job creation.

"I'd like to pick up the newspaper and read about people having the opportunity to find jobs," Tolbert said.

Johansen agreed.

"I support him because I think he's going to make the economy better," he said of Trump.

Other candidates

Trump is not the only candidate stopping in Pennsylvania as the primary approaches.

• Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the only presidential candidate who does not have a midstate office, plans to visit southeastern Pennsylvania today.

• Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was in Dauphin County on Wednesday, but currently does not have any further Pennsylvania stops listed on his website.

• Democrat Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton on Friday.

• Democrat Bernie Sanders will be in Reading and Scranton today. He is scheduled to attend a Gettysburg College town hall on Friday morning followed by an afternoon rally at Millersville University.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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