Mahoning Valley

If you told Brian Dzenis three years ago he would be loading postal semis for work, he would have laughed in your face. A former sports reporter at the now-defunct Youngstown Vindicator, affectionately known as the Vindy, Dzenis, 31, has spent the time after his layoff as a second-shift loader for FedEx, and an expediter for the United States Postal Service.

Signs hang from windows at the UAW Local 1112 union hall, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in Lordstown, Ohio.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press

Eight kids sit at the conference table pitching their projects: smart phones that expand, fold, fit around their wrists.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks at a Culinary Union hall Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Las Vegas.
John Locher / Associated Press

When he decided not to run for president, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urged Democratic candidates to take up the cause he championed: workers. That’s proving to be a more difficult task than expected, though.

A coalition of Mahoning Valley advocates has been in Columbus, touting the soon-to-be-closed GM plant in Lordstown and the economic promise they say it can bring to new investors. They’re also hoping General Motors reconsider its shutdown plans.

M.L. Schultze / WKSU

Manufacturing is among the first sectors that get hit by a recession, and the last to battle back. So for decades, a Northeast Ohio county like Trumbull -- built on steel and autos -- has struggled even when others have recovered.

When the phone rings at the Republican Party headquarters in Mahoning County, Ohio, a 77-year-old retired hairdresser and former lifelong Democrat answers.

Connie Kessler is a recent GOP convert with a religious-like zeal to help her hometown elect more local Republicans. Sometimes she answers calls from voters; other times she updates the database — she does the kind of odd jobs she says she used to do for local Democrats.

If Donald Trump hadn't run for president, Kessler says she'd probably still be a Democrat.

Randy Law looks around the Trumbull County Republican Party's temporary office on moving day.
KAREN KASLER / Ohio Public Radio

Donald Trump’s campaign had targeted northeast Ohio in trying to build a win in this key swing state. Though Hillary Clinton won about 15,000 more votes, Trump won 17 of the 20 counties in the region. And he won big in an area Democrats usually dominate – the Mahoning Valley.