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Trump energizes WV supporters with Huntington speech


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON – Making good on a promise he made on his campaign trail, President Donald Trump returned to West Virginia on Thursday for a rally in Huntington at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

The rally brought out thousands of Trump supporters from across the state and Tri-State, with the arena, which holds 9,000, filling up before everyone who waited in line could get in.

Paid for by his campaign, Trump used the rally to focus on what his administration has been able to accomplish in his first seven months as president and what promises he still is working to fulfill.

Photo gallery from Trump rally

President Donald J. Trump speaks during a rally on Thursday at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.
(Photo by Sholton Singer)

“The question for Democrats – all Democrats, including those in Congress – is whether they are on the side of the voters or are they on the side of the special interests,” Trump said. “The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made-up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda and no vision. They don’t talk about the all-time high stock market. They don’t talk about reforms to the VA or about manufacturing jobs we are bringing back to America.”

Trump also made a “big announcement” that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is switching from Democrat to Republican.

“Governor Justice did something else very important tonight. He showed the country that our agenda rises above left or right,” Trump said. “It’s an agenda for all of the people, especially for the tens of millions of forgotten Americans. They aren’t so forgotten anymore, I’ll tell ya.”

Among the topics Trump touched on Thursday night, bringing back manufacturing and energy-sector jobs were some of the more West Virginia-specific talking points.

Trump said coal exports were up 60 percent, and oil, steel and manufacturing jobs were on their way back as well.

“We are protecting American workers and American industry for the first time in many decades,” he said. “No longer will we allow other countries to close our factories, steal our jobs and drain our wealth. We are building our future with American hands, American labor and American … aluminum, steel and what else? Coal. We will buy American and we will hire American.”

Part of bringing those jobs back is Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which will repair roads and bridges across the country, he said.

“Americans will build this great future, and American energy and clean coal will fuel this great future,” Trump said.

Trump said he also wants to ensure Americans get to keep more of the hard-earned money by creating tax breaks for middle-class America, along with businesses.

Trump also encouraged supporters to call their representatives to urge them to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” which recently failed to pass the Senate by one vote.

What Trump didn’t focus on is the opioid epidemic. The president briefly mentioned the epidemic, which has greatly affected Huntington and the state, but in the following breath talked about the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. He insinuated the wall would stop the drug epidemic.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said it was a missed opportunity.

“We thought that this would be an ideal opportunity, coming into the heart of where the problem is, to declare a national emergency, and I’m awfully disappointed that he didn’t even open up the conversation,” Williams said. “Twelve days from now a year ago, we had the 28 overdoses, and coming into a community that has been fighting this and that has also been on the front line in innovation in the way that we are fighting it, frankly, I thought that with the commission coming out with their recommendations and then coming here that this would be something.”

Trump’s visit comes just days after his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released their report stating that the president should declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. Williams added that jobs is the prescription to ending the epidemic.

Still, the rally left supporters energized.

Andrew Hoback, of Ashland, said it was great to see how Trump could bring the community together.

He said bringing coal and industry back stood out to him.

“In Ashland, with the closing of AK Steel and businesses leaving this area, it’s really hard on the people,” Hoback said. “It’s not like we have a big city where businesses can constantly be flowing through. If he’s going to bring coal back or anything else back to this area, I think it will be amazing for this area.”

Even Trump’s talk about Russia, and how the Russian stories were just a distraction, resonated.

“Mr. Trump is right,” said Roger Watts, of Kenova. “It’s time to stop talking about the Russian influence. Unless you can show pictures of the Russians telling Hillary (Clinton) to put all the coal miners and coal companies out of business, then coal country voted for the right person.”

Accompanying Trump on his visit to Huntington was his son Eric Trump, daughter-in-law Lara Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., accompanied Trump on Air Force One, along with new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Trump and company flew into Huntington Tri-State Airport.

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