By PHIL KABLER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although Charleston lawyer Mike Stuart has been involved in Republican politics for some time, including a stint as West Virginia’s party chairman, this weekend will be his first trip to a presidential inauguration, something he sees as historic on many levels.
“It’s certainly a turning point, a change of direction,” Stuart, who headed President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign in West Virginia, said this week. “The change of direction is important, but the most important thing is the peaceful transition of power.”
Stuart is taking his wife and two teenage daughters to Washington, D.C., for five days, calling it a unique opportunity.
“You can read about it in a history book, or you can live it,” he said. “What better way than to be in Washington witnessing history?”
Likewise, freshman Delegate Nancy Foster, R-Putnam, said many West Virginians are making the trip to Washington because they have a special bond with Trump, the real estate mogul and reality television star.
“When you have a president-elect who mentioned your state not once, but many times on the campaign trail, it resonates with us, because we’re kind of a forgotten state,” she said.
That included a campaign rally in Charleston last May, when Trump pledged to put coal miners back to work — a promise critics and industry experts contend could be impossible to fulfill, given the realities of worldwide energy markets.
“I truly believe every inauguration is history, and I definitely want to be part of history,” Foster said. “Donald Trump is such an unorthodox political figure. He broke every political rule and still won, and that’s intriguing to me.”
Foster said she and her husband, Putnam County Commissioner Ronald Foster, were headed to Washington Wednesday and have a full itinerary planned, including meeting with members of the congressional delegation, attending a concert at the Lincoln Memorial today, the inauguration and inaugural balls on Friday and a couple of days of sight-seeing.
Stuart has a nearly identical itinerary planned for his family.
“As close as it is, we’ve never spent a great deal of time in D.C.,” he said. “Saturday and Sunday, we’re going to spend most of our time being tourists, taking in the sights and walking around.”
Stuart conceded that that probably will mean witnessing anti-Trump protests, including the Women’s March on Washington, expected to draw about 200,000 people on Saturday.
Stuart said he recognizes that the election was divisive and that different factions have strong emotions for or against Trump.
“You can express these opinions in a respectful way,” Stuart said in hoping that the protests will be peaceful. “We’re just hoping for an eventful, but uneventful, event.”
Stuart and Foster each said they are looking forward to an unusually temperate forecast for the inaugural weekend.
“Who would have thought, this time of year going to D.C. for an inauguration, we’d have a forecast where every day would be above 50 degrees?” Stuart said, joking that many people told him hell would freeze over before Trump would be elected president.
Conrad Lucas, state Republican Party chairman, said a number of party members from the area are heading to Washington for the inaugural events. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is holding a meet-and-greet for West Virginians attending the inauguration from 2 to 3 p.m. today in Room SDG-11 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
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