SCRANTON, Pa. — Some vendors still showed up with blue Hillary Clinton T-shirts and campaign buttons.
And even a small group of cars drove into the gravel parking lot outside the Riverfront Sports complex here, their occupants hoping to catch a glimpse of the presumptive Democratic nominee.
It would have been Clinton’s first appearance with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Both have strong ties to Scranton. Clinton’s father was born in the Electric City. Biden was born and spent his early childhood in Scranton.
But it was not to be. Clinton postponed the event Friday morning after a gunman killed five police officers late Thursday in Dallas.
Steph Slabic, a 21-year-old student, and her friend Jim Barnham, left their hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania, shortly before an email notice went out that the event had been canceled. They didn’t see the email until they arrived in Scranton.
“We got a T-shirt, so that works” Slabic said.
She said she understood the decision to postpone the rally because of the Dallas shootings.
“That is a tragic event,” she said. “They probably have to collect themselves.”
This was the second time Clinton has postponed a campaign event in the wake of a tragic shooting. Last month, she postponed a campaign stop with President Barack Obama after the shooting at an Orlando, Florida, gay nightclub, which killed 49 people.
Both Slabic and Barnham said they believed Biden would have been a more successful candidate than Clinton. They said he is more personable and a better debater.
But Charlie Mazza, 59, disagreed. Mazza is a retired heavy equipment operator, and had an Obama/Biden 2012 sticker on the back of his motorcycle helmet.
“I think Hillary is probably the most experienced candidate,” he said.
Biden has endorsed Clinton, though he has been critical of her at times. The two have a friendly but sometimes tense rivalry, according to The New York Times . Biden considered running for president as well, but decided not to after the death of his son last year.
Though the Scranton event was postponed, Clinton stuck to her plan to speak in Philadelphia, where she addressed the Dallas shootings before thousands at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s bicentennial conference.
Clinton’s remarks at the conference come amid heightening racial tensions after two black men were recently shot by police in Minnesota and Louisiana. The events prompted demonstrations across the country, including in Dallas where the police officers were shot as the Black Lives Matter protesters were marching downtown.
Police-involved shootings have become an issue in the hotly contested Pennsylvania Senate race. The incumbent Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey has emphasized his loyalty to the police in campaign ads.
“This disgusting attack has no possible justification,” Toomey said in a statement Friday. “Dallas must serve as a wake-up call to Americans that we should all stand together in support of the law enforcement family, a family that knows no boundaries of race, religion, or sex.”
Toomey’s Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, is herself the daughter of a police officer. On Friday, she tweeted that her thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Dallas victims, as well as the families of the black men killed in Minnesota and Louisiana.
The Dallas attack hit home for Slabic. Both of her parents are police officers.
“This is only getting worse,” Slabic said. She said she was backing McGinty and criticized Toomey for not being supportive of African-Americans struggling with police brutality.
“I don’t think it’s enough to just stand with police,” Slabic said. “If you aren’t willing to go and listen to the people and figure out why there is this problem … I think you’re just going to make the whole thing worse.”