As part of a series of statewide campaign rallies Thursday for Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte, Donald Trump Jr. made an appearance in what is arguably one of the most Democratic counties in Montana.
The Mining City hosted the president’s son at Pioneer Equipment & Supply Co. on Centennial Avenue, where more than 130 people gathered to hear Trump Jr. speak, along with Gianforte and Chris Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association.
Trump Jr. told the audience to not rest on their laurels after the victory of his father, President Donald Trump, and urged “Trump Democrats” to get behind Gianforte.
“I know historically Butte’s sort of a very, let’s call it, a Reagan Democrat (town),” said Trump Jr. ”(But) based on the numbers, I’m going to call it a Trump Democrat town.”
He compared Butte’s history as a copper mining town to the fate of the coal industry, which he said has taken a hard hit from federal regulations.
“Hey, we’re in Butte. Look at what we’ve done in relation to the mining industry,” said Trump Jr., advocating for “the rollback of some of the nonsensical regulations that have put that industry out of business.”
“And by the way,” Trump Jr. continued, “that’s not just about jobs when we’re talking copper or coal … that’s also national security. If we could have that energy independence, if we can utilize the resources that we have in our ground and put our men and women to work, I mean, that’s like a triple win because we’re also not sending that money to far-off lands, to places where they hate our guts, our values, our religions … that’s just common sense.”
Trump Jr. also knocked Democratic candidate Rob Quist for talking about job creation on the campaign trail and said that the only jobs Quist has created are those for lobbyists, not “real jobs for hardworking Americans,” he said. He compared Gianforte to his father President Trump, describing the Republican candidate as a job creator.
Gianforte also spoke at the rally.
He defended his record on public access issues, vowing to pull chains off gates “so we can get back our public lands.” He highlighted his stance on the Second Amendment and said he would defend Montanans’ right to bear arms. He then criticized Quist, citing the democratic candidate’s “F” rating from the NRA.
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Butte resident Mark Shutey was also thinking about the Second Amendment at Thursday’s rally.
Shutey, who described himself as an entrepreneur and business owner, said he’s already voted and came to Pioneer to support Gianforte and see Trump Jr.
Shutey cited gun rights as one of the most pressing issues in the upcoming election and said he is “disenchanted with some of the liberal views on gun control” – in particular Quist’s, who he said has made statements indicating that he supports gun registration.
Brian Hansen of Anaconda said he’s conservative but not a registered Republican. Living in a Democratic stronghold, Hansen said he keeps his political views to himself, especially on social media.
Before the rally, Hansen said he hoped Gianforte would address accusations of not being a strong advocate for public access. He cited border security and “the rule of law” as issues he’ll be thinking about when he sends in his ballot.
Butte-Silver Bow Commissioner Cindy Perdue-Dolan, meanwhile, shook hands with the president’s son after the event and got his signature on her pocket-sized copy of the Constitution.
“I would think (Trump Jr.) considers his dad a populist, not necessarily a Democrat or a Republican,” said Perdue-Dolan when asked what she thought Trump. Jr. meant by his comment about “Trump Democrats” in reference to Butte.
But it wasn’t just county officials, politicians, and celebrities who attended Thursday’s rally. A few young faces were in the crowd.
Powel County High School student Mattie Smith, 17, said she came to the rally with her cousin.
Last summer, the Deer Lodge resident said, she visited Washington D.C., which got her interested in politics.
When asked what it’s like to be in high school and able to see Gianforte and Trump Jr. in person, she responded, “It’s really cool.” However, Smith added that she doesn’t want to be a politician when she grows up.