Following Former President Donald Trump’s court appearance, WJET spoke to local political leaders to get their thoughts on the charges and what this means for Trump’s political future. 

Local reaction poured in Tuesday after Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a Manhattan courtroom.

“I think the former president is a man who has been afoul of the law since the 1970s, and finally, the chickens are coming home to roost,” said Jim Wertz, Erie Democrats chairman.

New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg is looking to go where the U.S. Department of Justice chose not to regarding alleged hush payments to two women.

“From what I know and from what I’ve heard, the district attorney is not a man who takes a whole lot of risks, so my assumption would be that the evidence that they have of these fraudulent business practices is fairly substantial,” Wertz added.

But local Republicans disagree, saying Democrats have been trying to villainize Trump since he first announced his candidacy for president in 2015. 

“This is just political football at the highest level. The Democrats have been itching and scrabbling to try and get their hooks in Donald Trump — and that’s fine. They tried with his impeachment twice, didn’t stick. The first round of indictments, didn’t stick.” said Brian Shank, (R) Erie County councilmember.

Tom Eddy, the chairman of the Erie County Republican Party, said these charges are simply an effort to interfere with the presidential race next year. Saying in part:

“The request that the trial does not begin until January of ’24 is right in the middle of the presidential primary season, making this smell like a political hit job by the left-leaning District Attorney Bragg.”

Both parties agree this is just the beginning of a long but bumpy road.

“I think that the important thing that we need to take away from this at the end of the day is that no one is above the law,” said Wertz.

“My prediction is, I’m not seeing him do one day in jail,” said Shank.

The consequences of the indictment are yet to be seen, but the story doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere anytime soon.