PIKEVILLE — Gov. Matt Bevin’s re-election campaign rolled into Pikeville on Thursday with support from the family of President Donald Trump.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Senior Advisor to President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is also Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, spoke in support of Bevin at Thursday’s rally at Appalachian Wireless Arena in downtown Pikeville. The pair, along with others, appeared before a crowd of approximately between 250 and 300 people.
“(Bevin) is a local extension of what my father is trying to do for the country,” Trump Jr. said during Thursday’s event.
Opening remarks were made at the rally by several speakers, including Congressman Hal Rogers, state Sen. Phillip Wheeler and Bevin’s running mate, state Sen. Ralph Alvarado. The speakers were enthusiastic and excited the crowd, who were holding Bevin campaign signs and many wearing “Make America Great Again” caps.
Jerry Palmer, a Pikeville resident who was in attendance, said he attended the Bevin rally to “support Donald Trump Jr. and support his dad mostly.” Palmer said he hoped to hear Trump Jr. deliver a message that his father is going to stay on his current course and continue the work he’s done in his first two-plus years as president.
“I just want to hear him that he’s going to stick to what he’s been doing because what he’s doing is working if we can get some of the Democrats to work with us,” Palmer said. “You can’t get anything done if the Congress ain’t going to help you and support the ideas we have.”
Wheeler, in an interview with the Appalachian News-Express prior to the event, said, “it’s not every day that a small community like ours gets a visit from the first family.” He said he hopes Thursday’s event will lead to bigger events in the future.
“I’m a huge fan of President Trump,” Wheeler said. “I’m so happy he’s coming into Kentucky to support the Republican ticket. I think this is a really big event for Pikeville and I hope it’s just a dry run for greater things to come.”
Wheeler also said he believes the event shows Bevin’s commitment to the region.
“It’s a smart move politically,” Wheeler said. “He does have some challenges in Eastern Kentucky and I’m glad that he’s working on those because we need to have a solid agenda for the advancement of this region. I’m glad that the has decided to focus on Eastern Kentucky.”
Wheeler said he hopes the event is indicative of President Trump’s attention being turned toward Eastern Kentucky.
“I want (Trump Jr.) to bring a message from his father that they hear us in Appalachia, they know we need help, that they’re prepared to give us the type of investment that they need in this region,” Wheeler said.
Many of the remarks made during the event about Bevin touted his business experience and his close relationship with the White House and President Trump. Bevin, himself, called the president a close friend.
“I’m grateful, truly grateful, to be personal friends with, but more importantly professionally associated with the president of the United States ...” Bevin said.
Bevin, who spoke for just more than nine minutes, said this year’s election for governor and next year’s presidential election are important for future of the country.
“This is a battle for the heart and soul of the United States of America, don’t get that wrong,” Bevin said, adding that he hopes voters will “vote your values, not your party.”
But although Bevin was the headliner, the event mostly consisted of remarks about the accomplishments of President Trump, and also discussion about the president’s many grievances, including with the national media and members of the Democratic party, among others.
Bevin introduced Guilfoyle, who spoke for about seven minutes before Trump Jr., who has frequented Eastern Kentucky on hunting trips, took the stage and spoke for more than 26 minutes. He recalled being with his father just before the elder Trump announced his candidacy for president and used the story to compliment the crowd.
“We’re T-minus 60 seconds from this launch and he goes, ‘Now we find out who our real friends are,’ and, man, he was right,” Trump Jr. said quoting his father. “And what’s been really interesting is the friends we’ve made since then in three-and-a-half years from so many of the great people of this country. Honestly, they’re so much better, they’re such better people than the phonies that were pretending to be our friends for years prior to that.”
Trump Jr. also made remarks about current Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Trump’s 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton and others. He spoke about immigration and the Mueller investigation, and also touched on his father’s entrance into the presidential race in 2015.
Trump Jr. also spoke about his father’s experience as a business person who not only signs the back of paychecks, but also signs “the front of checks.” He equated that with his father’s economic accomplishments and brought those remarks full-circle by saying Bevin has been successful creating jobs in Kentucky for much the same reason.
Trump Jr. promised to return to Kentucky many times over the next 15 months leading up to his father’s bid for re-election as president.
“We’ll see you this November, we’re going to be back a bunch in the next 15 months,” Trump Jr. said. “It’s going to be a 15-month sprint. It’s going to be brutal, it’s going to be rough, we’re going to have to work better, harder, faster, because we don’t get the benefit of the doubt from the media. We don’t get the free passes.”