Donald Trump Jr. revs crowd in Grand Junction Thursday night
Grand Junction — Billed as a candid conversation on public lands with Donald Trump Jr., one thing was noticeably missing from the younger Trump’s roughly 17-minute speech at the Mesa County Fairgrounds Thursday: public lands.
A self-described avid outdoorsman, the eldest child of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump briefly mentioned the importance of keeping lands open for grazing, hunting and natural resource extraction — a crucial issue for many on Colorado’s West Slope.
“We’re going to make sure we can take advantage of our natural resources and we can keep our public lands open for the outdoorsmen,” Trump Jr. said just before a raucous applause broke out.
“And by the way, we can have the best of both worlds in that. We can have grazing, we can have energy, we can have hunting and fishing on the same lands,” he said. “We can multipurpose these lands and we can do it in a way that’s smart and preserves them and everybody wins. We can see some of that prosperity come back to this country.”
The brief duration of his comments on public lands at the event, which was organized by Colorado Sportsmen “Make America Great Again,” did not discourage the hundreds of people of people holding Trump-Pence signs, sporting red “make America great again hats” and jumping to applaud the more standard stump-speech topics of bringing jobs back to America and taking the country back.
“It was great,” said Zach Jones, a 23-year-old Hotchkiss resident who mined coal before losing his job to what he said was the over-regulation that Trump would eliminate. “He’s going to bring our jobs back — coal jobs, the natural gas rigs.”
“I thought it was spectacular,” said Mark Jones, Zach’s younger brother, who excitedly stated that he shook Trump Jr.’s hand.
“And I got it on video,” chimed in Lew Kanez, the boys’ grandfather.
“It doesn’t bother me that he wants to make the public lands public,” Kanez said in response to a question about the limited discussion of public lands.
The event was never intended to be a policy dive into public lands management, said Darrin Smith, who lives in unincorporated Garfield County south of Glenwood Springs.
“This was a rally for people to get an introduction to Donald Trump Jr.,” said Smith, who chairs the re-election campaign for Garfield County Commissioner John Martin.
The junior Trump’s visit came days after he grabbed headlines earlier this week after comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles in a tweet, in which he also called for an end to the “politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.” Trump Jr. defended the remarks as a metaphor at a stop earlier Thursday, Politico and other outlets reported.
As people filed into the fairgrounds with the likes of George Strait playing through loudspeakers, it was clear many were excited about the fact presidential politics — albeit through a surrogate — was making a stop in what is normally fly-over country.
“I came out because I felt I needed to see this young man,” said Lisa Binse, a Grand Junction resident and registered nurse who is on the mend after a spinal procedure. “They’ve made an effort to come out to the West Slope. … I can’t remember another campaign who came out.”
(President Barack Obama spoke in Grand Junction in August 2012.)
In explaining her backing of Trump, Binse said that while Trump’s pride, which has become a defining element of the New York businessman’s campaign, turns off some people, she believed a man as successful as Trump must possess a great amount of compassion.
“Out of the two I think he is the best person because I think he is really proud of America and he really loves this country,” she said.
Others cited Trump’s outsider status and the need for a non-politician to step in and steer the country back to the better times they remembered.
“I believe that someone who is not part of the old regime of government could possibly make some positive changes for America,” said Darren Starr of Grand Junction. “It’s time to try something new.”
Indeed, those in attendance seemed to relish in the outsider status of the Trump campaign. As the event was gearing up to start, the crowd starting chanting a mix of “Trump” and “D-E-P-L-O-R-A-B-L-E-S,” a play on Hillary Clinton’s campaign gaffe earlier this month at a fundraiser where she said “half of Trump’s supporters” fall into a group she called “the basket of deplorables.”
“What are we?” a woman in front of the stage screamed out Thursday.
“Deplorables,” the audience shouted back as people jumped to their feet and waved signs.
As the event came to a close and people filtered out of the fairgrounds, Binse said she had hoped Trump Jr. would talk more about public lands, but overall she enjoyed the event.
“He seemed really down to earth.”
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