By Don Henderson
Tampa Trump Rally and Bill Signing Huge Success
From start to finish the effort on the part played by the Hillsborough County Republican Party (HREC) was admirable and praiseworthy, as they had the honor of welcoming our President, Donald J. Trump, to Hillsborough County.
It all started following a number of discussions with the White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA) and our Chairman Jim Waurishuk, prior to and since the HREC Lincoln Day Dinner. Several months ago an inquiry came from the White House concerning a trip to Florida for President Trump. In mid-June, our Chair was contacted by OPA and advised of the White’s House plans of looking for an opportunity for President Trump to travel to Florida in late July to sign the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act” known as the Perkins Act. The White House asked our Chairman for his consideration, support, and recommendations for the event to be held in Hillsborough County noting that Orange County was also a consideration. Our Chair, along with our Executive Director wasted no time and quickly crafted and developed a proposal for the White House, and within two days or so the White House approved the recommendation. Of course, the school event wasn’t enough for our Chairman, upon receiving White House approval of the bill signing, he insistently suggested that the White House also consider a Presidential rally, in Tampa. Cognizant of the importance of Hillsborough County in both this month’s Primary, the November Mid-Term Elections, and going forward through the 2020 Presidential Election, he saw the opportunity and offered the idea. A few days later, another White House approval was given to hold a rally – and a win-win for Hillsborough recognizing the importance of a Presidential visit to Tampa and Hillsborough County.
Recognizing the benefits, the White House agreed and President Trump, along with many special guests, flew into Tampa for the education bill signing and rally.
What everyone should realize, in case they are not aware, is our Chairman’s stead-fast support of our President from the day he first announced his candidacy in June 2015. The Chair immediately expressed his support and took the opportunity to support Mr. Trump in every way possible. In December 2015, his support was recognized and an old friend contacted him, the Trump Campaign’s Florida Campaign Director, requesting Jim, as a retired USAF Colonel, to be the first retired military officer to formally endorse Donald Trump, followed by a second request to help the campaign on national security issues and to be one of only three speakers to speak on behalf of Mr. Trump at the USF Sun Dome. The purpose of the presentation was to tell the 14,000 attendees in the audience why Mr. Trump would be the most viable candidate on the issue of national security.
Following the endorsement and speech at the rally, Mr. Trump sent out a press release, stating that Donald J. Trump was endorsed by USAF Colonel, retired and highly decorated senior intelligence officer, Jim Waurishuk. Mr. Trump continued saying; “Jim’s support is so important to me and with his help we will win Florida and Make America Great Again”!
Since then, the Chair cultivated important relationships with senior Trump campaign officials, made the needed contacts within the Trump administration and had meetings with OPA officials at the White House. Further, he has reached out to like-minded Trump supporters across Florida to help galvanize a solid coalition of loyal Trump supporters and vocal spokespeople to work together toward 2020. And as many know, it was one of his deep-seated goals upon becoming Chairman to work toward bring President Trump to Hillsborough County.
As the event got closer our Chairman’s behind-the-scenes coordination with the White House, the Secret Service, and various White House Advance teams and staff ensured an overall smooth running event, despite inclement weather and other pop-up issues.
On an extremely commendable note, seven (7) members from the Hillsborough County Republican Party were selected and appointed by our Chairman to drive in the Presidential Motorcade from Air Force One which landed and parked at Tampa International Airport, transporting VIP guests, Presidential support staff and the White House press corps who were traveling with the President to both the Tampa Technical High School then to the Florida State Fairgrounds and back to the airport. One of the White House staff said driving in the motorcade was a “real rush!” Feedback from the White House advance team has been nothing but superb regarding the curtesy, professionalism, and outstanding performance of our Presidential Motorcade drivers.
The bill signing at Tampa Technical High School and the follow-on rally at the Fairgrounds was a tremendous boost to the grassroots of Hillsborough County, a great opportunity for the HCREC to shine, and also fulfilled a key priority of the Chair to try to bring the President to Hillsborough County for an event. Mission accomplished!
The education bill signing, held at Tampa Bay Tech, was also attended by Governor Rick Scott, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Ivanka Trump, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Congressman Matt Gaetz, and other distinguished guests. Approximately (350) enthusiastic parents, students and school officials attended the historic event which was highlighted by speeches from the President, the Governor, Ivanka Trump and former Tampa Bay Technical High School student (David Thompson Calderon) and (Isabelle Cruz), currently a senior at Tampa Bay Tech. The President stated that, “more than 11 million students and workers will have greater access to better training and more jobs” and called the bill “a present to Tampa Bay Technical High School”.
The highlight of the day was the Trump Rally in the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Over 10,000 pumped-up, excited, jubilant, red-blooded Americans let their patriotism and support for President Trump be heard loud and clear. Trump supporters who were determined to not let anything stop them from attending this event, started lining up at 11:00 pm the night before. Coordinating with the White House, many volunteers from the Hillsborough County Republican Party, Republican clubs, and RPOF/RLI worked tirelessly to help with the organization of the event and registration of the huge crowd.
Members of the White House staff that has accompanied the President to his rallies following his election commented that this rally ranked in the top ten!
Chairman Waurishuk opened the exciting event and kept the rally flowing as the pre-event’s Emcee. Prior to the main event, Pastor JJ Johnson of South Tampa Fellowship Church opened the event in prayer, Andrew Pollock, father of a Parkland victim, guided the Pledge of Allegiance, Florida House Speaker Jose Olivia, Joe Gruters, Trump’s former Florida Campaign Chairman, Lara Trump, and Casey DeSantis all gave powerful speeches. The audience’s roaring response to President Trump’s speech was unreservedly extremely supportive with loud cheering and constant clapping throughout the evening. Gubernatorial Candidate Ron DeSantis was eagerly accepted by the cheering crowd as he cast his vision for a continuing prosperous Florida. President Trump delighted the crowd when he announced, “I’ve kept my promises!”
The President’s trip to Hillsborough County energized and boosted the confidence of the Republicans and Trump supporters of Hillsborough. President Trump’s speech inspired the base, built the confidence of the faithful despite the media’s fake news and started the process for a victorious 2020 Presidential election! The bill signing at Tampa Bay Technical High School showed America the President’s concern for education and at the same time revealed the practical implementations of policies that will benefit millions of Americans. The President’s remarks resonated with the students and parents giving compelling reasons for pursuing a technical education.