Highland County supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump are excited about his visit to the region on Thursday and are making plans to attend, according to the chair of the local Republican Party.
Paulette Donley said Tuesday many local Trump supporters have been registering online for tickets to the event, which was announced Monday. Tickets were made available to the public Monday evening via Trump’s website. He will speak at a noon rally Thursday at the Roberts Centre near Wilmington, where gates will open at 9 a.m.
Donley said local Republicans had “a hint” over the weekend that a Trump appearance in the area might be a possibility, but she had the rumors confirmed around 6 p.m. or so Monday.
“There are several who are anxious to go,” said Donley. “They’ve been waiting for this. I expect quite a turnout.”
The leader of the Clinton County GOP echoed Donley’s sentiments.
“We’re absolutely thrilled that Mr. Trump is coming to Clinton County,” said Clinton County GOP Chairman Tim Inwood. “This may be Clinton County, but as he showed in the primary, it’s Trump country, as he handily carried the county.” Trump also won Highland County during the Republican primary earlier this year.
Staff at the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office met Tuesday morning with Secret Service. The local deputies will assist Secret Service in securing the Roberts Centre, said Clinton County Sheriff Ralph Fizer Jr., “to make sure everyone has a pleasant rally with hopefully no incidents.”
Fizer noted this is not the first time a national candidate has held a public rally at the Roberts Centre, mentioning vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and Dick Cheney when he was a sitting vice president. In addition, Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave his annual State of the State address at the Roberts Centre in early 2015.
While helping provide security at a presidential campaign rally is a big responsibility, the sheriff also can appreciate the event as an event, saying it is “neat” to have Trump visit Clinton County.
Wilmington Chief of Police Duane Weyand said Tuesday that his department will be engaged in security, too.
Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Debbie Stamper said it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the local economic impact of such an event.
“While the majority of attendees will drive in for the day and return home, we are keenly aware of the opportunity it presents to showcase the Roberts Centre,” Stamper said. “You never know how much future business may be cultivated. And there will, of course, be spending at our local eateries and gas stations, another positive takeaway.”
In the national spotlight
“This is an exciting opportunity for the people of Wilmington and southwest Ohio to participate in the political process and hear first-hand from a presidential candidate,” said Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican of Clarksville in Clinton County.
“Ohioans probably know better than anybody the importance of the presidential election and understand just how vital Ohio is to determining the next president. Every person in Ohio holds a great deal of influence over the future direction of our country, which is a privilege that not every state can claim,” said Rosenberger.
He added, “I encourage men and women in Wilmington to attend the rally and show the entire nation the kind of spirit and enthusiasm that our city shares.”
Clinton County Commissioner Mike Curry said it’s always a good thing when a national candidate visits the community and “sees what we’re about.”
“It’s a good opportunity for our community to be in the spotlight again,” said Curry.
He plans to be at the mid-day Thursday event. Curry declined to say how he feels about Trump as a presidential candidate.
Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley said anytime a presidential candidate comes to Clinton County, it puts a spotlight on the local community, “which I think is a good thing for a variety of reasons.”
He said he thinks Trump has run an effective anti-status quo campaign.
“Many people in America feel there is a time for change, back to a more conservative philosophy, and that has broad appeal to the electorate,” said Haley. He said he is going to attend the rally where he anticipates a massive turnout from the region.
Clinton County Commissioner Kerry Steed has registered for event tickets. He said Trump is a businessman who knows how to turn failure into success – something that Clinton Countians have had to address after devastating job losses in 2008-09.
Trump “exhibits a lot of qualities we need for success in this country,” added Steed.
The abilities to build businesses and serve customers and take the business risk everyday provide motivation to improve, work hard and look toward the future, he said.
First-year Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth said he has been invited to be on the stage at the rally. “That was a shock,” he said.
“Boy, am I glad he’s coming to Clinton County,” said Stanforth, a Republican. “He is our presidential candidate,” the mayor said, wondering aloud about members of political parties who do not get behind the party candidate after the primary elections.
Two weeks in the making
Inwood told the News Journal that the local Republican organization first heard about a possible local visit by Trump about two weeks ago.
“He’s coming to the national American Legion convention in Cincinnati and we were given a heads up that the campaign was looking for another venue in Southwest Ohio,” Inwood said. “Clinton County was very appealing to them and we got confirmation today (Monday) that he’s coming here.”
Inwood said he hasn’t been told what Trump may be speaking about, but he pointed out that “all his speeches are newsworthy.”
Reach Tom Barr or Gary Huffenberger at 937-382-2574. Gary Abernathy contributed to this story.