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Gianforte, Trump Jr Mine For Votes In Democratic Stronghold

Donald Trump Jr. returned to Montana on May 11 to rally supporters for U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte in Butte, Montana.
Corin Cates-Carney
Donald Trump Jr. returned to Montana on May 11 to rally supporters for U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte in Butte, Montana.

Donald Trump Jr., the head of the NRA, and Republican candidate Greg Gianforte rallied supporters in Butte, Thursday morning, two weeks before voting ends in the special election to decide Montana’s next lone representative in the U.S. House.

When the race started, Democrats saw the May 25 special election as an opportunity for a referendum against President Donald Trump. But Trump Jr. promised the crowd of about 170 supporters gathered outside a mining equipment and supply store just south of Butte’s uptown, that this would be a referendum of a different kind.

Trump Jr. said this special election would be a continuation of the conservative movement that put his father in the White House:

"This election was a referendum on common sense. And that is what Greg is going to bring to the table. As I said earlier, this is someone who, like my father, has actually created jobs. Has actually started businesses.”

This was Trump Jr.’s second time stumping with Gianforte on the campaign trail. And much like the previous tour last month, Trump Jr. likened Gianforte to his father, painting a portrait of a successful entrepreneur now doing the people’s work in a broken system.

“He doesn’t need this job. Just like my father didn’t need this job," Trump Jr. said. "He wants this job because he loves this country. He wants this job because he loves this state.”

Silver Bow County voted for Democrats in every federal and statewide race last November. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 52 to 39 percent here. Gianforte lost the county by an even larger margin in the governor’s race, getting 26 percent of the vote.

But Trump Jr. tried to align Gianforte's job creating platform with the local crowd:

“Hey we’re in Butte, look what we’ve done as it relates to the mining industry. The rollback of some of the nonsensical regulations that have put that industry out of businesses, and by the way, that’s not just about jobs, it's about national security. If we can have that energy independence and put our men and women to work, that is like a triple win, because we’re also not sending that money off to far off lands where they hate our guts.”

The Montana Resources company still mines copper and molybdenum in Butte, although, the town's major mining days are gone and the Berkeley pit mine is now filled with acidic wastewater.

Throughout the more than 25 minutes of speeches from Trump Jr., Greg Gianforte and the executive director of the NRA, nearly as many protesters as rally goers chanted and waved signs outside the event.

Jim McDonald lives in Butte and says he supports the Democrat in the special election, Rob Quist. McDonald says he came out to protest against President Trump’s actions in Washington D.C., and draw attention to this race.

“And the need to send some normalcy back to D.C. I mean if the last few days are an indicator of what’s being going on, the last 110 days since Mr. Trump has become president, it is absolutely bizarre, and I long for the days of a little no-drama Obama,” Mcdonald said.

McDonald wore a shirt with "I like Obamacare" printed on it. Several of the protesters said they were concerned about Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

Protesters at rally for U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte on May 11, 2017. Donald Trump Jr. joined Gianforte at the Butte, MT rally.
Credit Corin Cates-Carney
Protesters at rally for U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte on May 11, 2017. Donald Trump Jr. joined Gianforte at the Butte, MT rally.

Protesters, like Butte native Robbie Taylor, say Gianforte is an out of state millionaire and doesn't represent their way of life.

“I don’t believe he really, really knows what it means to be a native Montanan,” Taylor said.

Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist are competing to portray themselves as  the authentic voice of Montana.

To his supporters inside the rally in Butte, Gianforte, and the Trump administration are saying the right things.

Margie McCaffery already voted for Gianforte, and after the rally she said she’s planning on going out and rallying support for the the Republican candidate around Butte:

“I thought it was great. It was very inspiring and uplifting and just keeping us all high and ready for the election. And I’m campaigning and making phone calls and going door to door and saying a lot of prayers.”

After the rally in Butte, the Gianforte campaign flew off to Sidney, and then to Great Falls for events there. Earlier in the day, at a rally in Helena, the Gianforte campaign  drew a crowd of about 300 people, according the Helena Independent Record.

Vice President Mike Pence headlines a rally for Gianforte in Billings, Friday.

Senator Jon Tester is stumping for the Democratic candidate Rob Quist in Kalispell on Saturday. The pair will also campaign together in  Helena and Great Falls the following weekend. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to campaign for Quist before election day.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.