YOUNGSTOWN, Penn. – Leslie Rossi painted one of her houses red, white and blue to look like the American flag. A Donald Trump banner hangs from the side of the house, and a Trump sign decorates the lawn.
The Pennsylvania resident said she’s never been politically active until now – and it’s not always easy for her.
When Rossi – a landlord who owns 48 properties – isn’t at her vibrant “Trump house” or at other properties where she’s put up Trump signs, she’s had to pick up the pieces from vandalized memorabilia. She once spent an afternoon scrubbing graffiti off a sign, and people have used boxcutters to destroy others.
People frequently steal lightbulbs that illuminate a giant sign in front of the Trump house, and Rossi said somebody came in the middle of the night and defecated on her sign.
“A little sh–’s not going to scare me,” Rossi said. “They want to take our voice away. They want to silence us. They don’t want us to do the things we’re doing because people are listening, and they don’t like that.”
News21 traveled to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and Mahoning County, Ohio, two areas where many members of unaffiliated Donald Trump advocacy groups said they weren’t politically active until the Trump campaign.
Rossi and her counterparts in Mahoning County – Kathy Miller and Don Skowron, among others – face scrutiny because of their beliefs, amplified by the controversies surrounding the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign.
“(Trump’s) going to be different, and I think that frightens people that are not supporting Mr. Trump,” said Miller, the Mahoning County chairwoman for Trump. “I think they’re a little frightened by his ability.”
Mahoning County’s movement is primarily aimed at reaching voters who either aren’t Republican or haven’t been politically involved.
Skowron, a retired policeman and steelworker, spends 12 hours a day making signs urging voters to “cross over” to vote for Trump.
“We are not the Republican Party,” he said. “We are ‘vote for Trump.’ We want to get the other people thinking. Kathy and I are … on a mission to get it done.”
Skowron said he’s been cursed at for putting up signs, and Air Force veteran Chad Jones – who’s helped Skowron build the “cross over” signs – said friends on his Facebook page have ridiculed him for his efforts.
“A lot of (Trump supporters) just kind of keep their opinions to themselves, but I know when they go in that voting booth who they’re going to vote for,” Jones said. “(There’s) fear of retaliation to some degree … so that makes even more people hush-hush about it.”
Rossi and Miller lead grassroots movements that have no official title, but these groups are gaining popularity as November’s general election approaches. Both said they align with Trump on almost all of his stances, especially with his views on the economy and veteran care.
“I just want something to get done. We just need a person who’s going to take care of the taxpayers and the citizens and do what’s right for this country,” Miller said. “I don’t think another candidate has come along that is willing to do what needs to be done.”
Rossi said she painted her house to promote Trump’s candidacy. She doesn’t live at the home, but she said once people see her truck pulling into the driveway, people flock to pick up signs and shirts.
Rossi said she uses those opportunities to educate others about Trump’s campaign.
“I did the Trump house for awareness,” Rossi said. “I didn’t realize people would love this house as much as they do.”
“It’s definitely been a time to speak out, and we need to,” Rossi said. “I totally believe in Mr. Trump, in what he’s trying to do and getting America back on track. We need change. We’re really excited, and we’re doing everything we can to get him elected.”
Come back Aug. 20 to see the full News21 report on “Voting Wars.”