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Politics

Trump Faithful Turn Out For Rally In Cabarrus

Hundreds of people were lined up before 9 a.m. Monday outside the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, where Republican presidential candidate and front-runner Donald Trump was scheduled to speak at noon.  Most were Trump believers, while a few supporting others came to hear his message. And across the parking lot, a handful of protesters waved anti-Trump signs.

Trump’s speech was scheduled to begin at noon, but didn't get going until around 12:30.  He spoke about about 40 minutes, interrupted a couple of times by protesters. A major theme was American jobs fleeing the country, to places like Mexico and China.

"We have to make smart deals," Trump said. "We're losing our jobs, and the politicians don't tell you that. I actually think a lot of them don't know. Most of them that do know, they're controlled by special interests that own companies in other countries they're even controlled by other countries."  

Trump also is scheduled to speak in Fayetteville on Wednesday, as he woos voters in advance of the March 15th primary.  Early voting already is underway.

Among those filing into Cabarrus Arena just after 9 Monday were two women in Trump shirts, Bonnie Dulin and Darlene Mertz, both of Mount Pleasant. They said it was their first political rally.  Why?

“Trump, making America great again,” Dulin said. “Our country’s just falling apart, and we need someone like Trump."

Kraig Moss of Owego, New York, has been following Trump around the country, attending rallies and playing his guitar. He serenaded people waiting in a security line with a song that began: “Let’s make America great again … Let’s make America great again …”

Moss said his son died two years ago of a heroin overdose, and he was looking for a candidate who understood his tragedy. He said he questioned Trump at a rally in Iowa, asking him what he’d do to fight the heroin epidemic.

“He came up in front of that stage and said, ‘I want to let you know I’m sorry for your loss, I know it’s tough and I’m sure your son was a good man.’ I was shot to pieces by that time and he calmed me down, and he addressed the issue right then and there. Stopped everything he was doing.

"He showed a side of him that is compassionate and heartfelt,” Moss said.

Moss also liked Trump’s answer, “and that is we have to protect all our borders.”

Now, he’s following Trump and playing his guitar - from Iowa to Virginia to Florida to North Carolina. “I finally found something that really gave me some kind of purpose, inspiration. I lost a lot of drive when I lost my son,” he said. “I love getting out and meeting people … it was a good fit for me.”

Lanny Lancaster, finance chair for the Republican party in the 8th Congressional district, said he’s not endorsing anyone yet, but wanted to hear what Trump has to say.

“I am supporting whoever is the nominee for the Republican party. If it’s Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, I will be behind that candidate, but at this time, I am not in my position endorsing anybody,” he said.

Asked if he’s leaning toward one candidate, he said, “I do have a favorite, I would say Ted Cruz is probably my favorite, but Donald Trump is probably a close second.”

Not everyone at the rally was a sympathizer. A handful of anti-Trump protesters - all from Concord - waved signs at cars as they entered the arena parking lot. One said: “Donald Trump, More Like Giant Dump.” Another had Bible verses including Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.”

Another sign offered a bit of humor: “Good luck building a wall with those tiny hands,” a reference to an exchange between candidates at the last Republican presidential debate.

Elizabeth Kingaby said she and fellow protesters wanted to send their own message. “We don’t believe that a candidate who spews only hate and disapproval of people who aren’t like him should be leading our country,” she said.

“We know that a lot of people in our hometown here in Concord, hold the same views as Trump, so we’ve made a lot of signs today. We hope that if we can change just one mind from seeing how hateful Trump is, and supporting that, then at least we’ll have made some small difference,” she said.

Kingaby said other protesters planned to attend the speech - without signs.