Trump talks coal, economy, Russia during Huntington visit

President Donald Trump speaks Thursday during a campaign rally at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena. (Franklin Norton | The Parthenon)

President Donald Trump visited Huntington on Thursday for a campaign rally. The event was held at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, and downtown Huntington was practically shut down. Vendors selling Trump gear flocked in the streets, Trump supporter packed the arena and protesters stood by, voicing their opposition towards the commander-in-chief.

Mark Maynard, West Virginia State Sen. for the 6th District, opened the event. Maynard was the co-chairman of the Trump campaign in West Virginia for the 2016 election. He introduced several guest speakers: Pastor Larry Greene for the convocation, World War II Veteran Woody Williams for the pledge of allegiance, Cabell County GOP chair T-Anne See for the national anthem, former Marshall football coach Bob Pruett and West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

“West Virginia is taking its rightful place,” Leonhardt said, “and president Trump…is certainly helping.”

Finally, after much anticipation, Trump’s daughter-in-law, Laura Trump, took to the stage to pump up the crowd.

“He was a better candidate with a better message and he had the backing of the American people,” Trump said.

Laura Trump spent much of her time on stage criticizing the “mainstream media”, along with those who oppose the president.

“They’d better buckle up and settle in,” Trump said, “because he’s going to be here for another seven years.”

After a short gap, “Country Roads” played loudly throughout the arena, and the president took his time walking to the podium, stopping to wave to his supporters. Before getting to his destination, he grabbed a sign from a supporter and held it up: “Trump Digs Coal,” it read. Coal and the economy were huge focal points for the president during his speech.

“I love the people of this state,” Trump said. “I love your grit, your spirit. And I love your coal miners, and we’re coming back strong.” He went on to say that, “As president we are putting or coal miners back to work. We’ve ended the war on beautiful, clean coal. We’ve stopped the EPA intrusion.”

He added the state has seen a 3 percent increase in economic growth, leading the country’s average in growth rates.

West Virginia was the most pro-Trump state in the 2016 election, with 68 percent of its voters casting a vote for Trump. In other words, two out of every three W.V. voters supported Trump in the election.

Earlier in the day, Trump claimed to have a big announcement at the rally, which came when he called recently elected Governor Jim Justice, a Democrat, to the stage. Justice announced his intent to switch to the his party affiliation to Republican.

“Today I will tell you with lots of prayers and lots of thinking,” Justice announced, “I can’t help you anymore being a Democratic governor.”

Justice claimed that the Democrats walked away from him. He also remarked that he had met with the president in the oval office twice in the past several weeks.

“Having ‘Big Jim’ as a Republican is such an honor,” Trump said.

Trump went on to denounce news about Russian interference in his campaign, reference Hillary Clinton’s emails and discuss his views on American safety and security.

Trump also discussed the newly proposed RAISE Act, a merit-based immigration system, which would support immigrants who “can speak English” and support themselves financially.

After speaking more on border security, building the wall and tax reform, the president said goodbye to the state, exiting the stage to enormous applause.

Franklin Norton can be contacted at [email protected]