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Former President Donald Trump takes the stage at Mohegan Sun Arena

Former President Donald Trump takes the stage at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Tom Riese, WVIA News
Former President Donald Trump takes the stage at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp.

The 45th president of the United States came out onto the stage at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza to a rapturous applause.

"I'm thrilled to be back in this beautiful commonwealth with the thousands of hard hardworking American Patriots that I've gotten to know so well," said Trump.

The former president walked out onto the stage as "Proud to be an American" played. He took a moment to pause and take in the excitement of the crowd, who earlier chanted "We Want Trump."

He took the stage after 7:30 p.m. The former president is in Wilkes-Barre Twp. today for a Save America Rally campaigning for the “Pennsylvania Trump Ticket.”

Republican candidates for Pennsylvania Governor and congressional seats in the senate and house spoke at the rally before Trump. The event began after 4 p.m.

The speakers touched on an array of conservative issues including transgender women playing sports on women’s teams, inflation and the Mexico/United States boarder. Their speeches were sprinkled with religious references. They slammed President Joe Biden’s comments about “MAGA Republicans” during his two visits to Pennsylvania this week. Biden visited Wilkes University on Tuesday to unveil his Safer America Plan. Biden, in Philadelphia on Thursday, called those same Republicans "an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic."

Jim Bognet is a Hazle Twp. resident running for U.S. representative in the 8th congressional district against incumbent and Democrat Matt Cartwright.

He held a senior position in the Trump Administration.

“Biden put America in the ditch,” said Bognet, who called the region the greatest place in the world. "Joe Biden and Matt Cartwright don’t represent our values in Northeast Pennsylvania."

Bognet said gas should not cost $4 a gallon.

"We know that all the oil and gas we need is right here under Pennsylvania and we’re going to drill for it," he said.

Doug Mastriano, a U.S. Army veteran, is running against Democrat and current Attorney General Josh Shapiro, for governor. Shapiro was also campaigning the region today. He stopped at the Italian Festival in Scranton.

The current state Senator slammed Shapiro for what he said is rising crime in Pennsylvania over the attorney general’s term.

Mastriano called Jan. 17 – the day the next governor will be sworn in – his day one. He laid out his goals if elected to serve as governor.

“Any mask mandates or COVID jab requirements are done and over,” he said.

Mastriano said no more critical race theory will be allowed in Pennsylvania. Currently the academic concept is not taught in Pennsylvania schools.

“On day one, no boys on the girls team … no boys in the girls bathrooms,” he said. “We’re going to be a law and order state. On day one we’re no longer a sanctuary state. We will not play host to any illegals in Pennsylvania.”

Mastriano’s wife, Rebbie Mastriano, also spoke about women’s rights in Pennsylvania.

“Republicans do believe in women’s rights,” she said. “We believe in a woman's right to be born … to have a say in her child’s education. We believe that a woman should have access to baby formula and affordable groceries for their family.”

She said that Republicans believe in a woman’s right to raise their children in safe communities where the government enforces the law and prosecutes crime.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a television personality and retired cardiothoracic surgeon, is running for U.S. Senate against Democrat and current Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman.

“Our nation needs to be brave more than ever,” he said. “The only thing Joe Biden has built back better is the Republican party.”

The large crowd filled into the arena’s upper and lower level seats as well as around the speakers’ podium on the floor. Most in the audience wore red, white and blue t-shirts and gear supporting Trump, matching the motif of the arena which is draped in American Flags. The crowd danced to music playing in the arena during breaks in between speakers. They did the wave for television cameras and clapped to the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” They chanted "Lets Go Brandon" and "U.S.A." while waiting for Trump to speak.

State Treasurer Stacy Gerrity opened the rally. Cynthia Hughes and Geri Perna spoke on behalf of their nephews who were charged with offenses related to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Perna’s nephew, Matthew Perna, died by suicide in February.

U.S. Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, from Georgia, and Dan Meuser, from Pennsylvania's ninth congressional district, also spoke. Meuser is running for reelection.

Greene came on stage to a huge round of applause. She said the recent raid of Trump’s Mar-a-lago home in Florida was a violation of his rights.

“This is the type of America that all of us have nightmares about, “ she said. “We have to hold them accountable.”

To do so, she called on the crowd to elect Mastriano.

“Pennsylvania you have a job to do,” she said. “This November it's freedom versus tyranny on the ballot.”

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is warning motorists to expect delays disruptions on I-81 northbound between exit 180 and exit 168 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Highland Park Boulevard will be closed to traffic during Trump’s arrival and departure.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org
Sarah Scinto is the local host of Morning Edition on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.

You can email Sarah at sarahscinto@wvia.org
Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's All Things Considered. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.

You can email Tom at tomriese@wvia.org
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