On Saturday, April 9, a crowd of red-hatted, flag-waving fans of former President Donald Trump descended on Selma, N.C.’s “The Farm at 95” venue to hear from Trump and other prominent conservative speakers. Shortly after the gates opened at 2 p.m. many enthusiastic attendees were more than happy to dance to the country music blaring from the sound system, mingle with other like-minded “America First” supporters, and otherwise participate in a party-like atmosphere as they waited for Trump to speak at 7 p.m.
In speaking with those gathered about Trump’s endorsements and the upcoming 2022 elections, similar themes emerged — they were not too familiar with U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd or 13th U.S. House District candidate Bo Hines, but the fact that they received Trump’s stamp of approval held a lot of weight.
“His endorsement is important, but I’m still looking,” said Greg Beck, who did not live in the 13th district. “I don’t care anything else about them but if they’re conservatives. But [Trump’s endorsement] would make me take an extra look.”
Beck said he was “absolutely” going to vote in this election and that illegal immigration was his most motivating issue.
“Do it legally and I have no problem, but [I do have a problem with] the amount of drugs and sex trafficking that are coming across.”
Another man, Kent Woodworth, said “not that much” when asked how familiar he was with Budd and Hines but “a lot” when asked how much Trump’s endorsement would influence his decision. Woodworth said he is from the 13th District but is not familiar with other candidates in the race yet. He said he was certainly going to vote but there was no one issue that rose above the others, listing off multiple topics — inflation, Ukraine, the border, economy — that motivated his vote.
A husband and wife, the Wells, told CJ that Trump’s endorsement of Budd and Hines “will definitely have some weight to it,” but that they will still check out the other candidates. They were not voters in the 13th District but came down from Raleigh. They said they were “100%” certain that they were going to vote, and Mrs. Wells said they were motivated by the fact that “The country is going to sh*t.”
Two retired women, Valerie Baxter and Nancy Mari, who recently moved to the area from Rhode Island, told CJ that of the politicians in attendance, they were only familiar with U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn and thought he was doing great work in Congress. But while they were not familiar with Budd or Hines, Baxter and Mari agreed they would not consider any other candidates now that Trump had made an endorsement.
“If he’s vetted them already, then I don’t need to ask any more questions about whoever he’s endorsed,” Baxter said of Budd and Hines. “Because he wants people who are going to fight alongside him, who are going to try to win and make things right in this country.”
They both said they were going to vote in person on Election Day, and they said “every issue” is motivating them.
Sherry McRiddles and Stephanie Kovac, two younger women, said “not at all” when asked how familiar they were with the candidates before coming to the event.
“Certainly,” McRiddles said on whether they would vote for the candidates Trump endorsed. “Whatever he says.”
They came down from Wake Forest for the event, so they said they couldn’t vote for Hines, but they said they were 100% going to vote and would now vote for Budd. They listed border, economy, education, human trafficking, inflation and other issues as their top motivators.
Johnny and Chanelle Mejia, a Hispanic couple who recently moved to Johnston County from California, told CJ that they would look at all the candidates before making their decision. They were also certain they would vote and listed gas prices, inflation, and immigration as their top issues.
But not everyone present was sold on Hines simply because of the Trump endorsement. On the drive in, signs for DeVan Barbour and Renee Ellmers — two other candidates in the 13th District race — could be seen. CJ saw Barbour by a large sign set up in the back of a pickup truck on a nearby property where people were walking by to the event. Some of his supporters even wore Barbour shirts inside the event, in a not-so-subtle pushback against the endorsement of Hines.
CJ spoke with one of those wearing a Barbour shirt inside the event, a young man who said he preferred not to give his name.
“I feel like based on where we live, DeVan [Barbour] has more of an understanding of our area,” he said. “He’s from here, and he’s a great guy.”
On whether he’s noticed more people in the district are leaning towards Hines because of the Trump endorsement or towards Barbour and other candidates, he said, “I really don’t know at this point, but in our area, a lot of folks are supporting DeVan.”
He did concede that this event would likely have a big impact on the vote of some in the community, saying, “Probably so. I mean, he’s got Trump’s endorsement.”
Starting at 4 p.m., a number of speakers — including Hines, Budd, Mike Lindell of “My Pillow,” U.S. Reps. Dan Bishop, Madison Cawthorn and Greg Murphy, and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson — came to the stage. Budd spoke last after being introduced by Robinson, who garnered the largest applause of any pre-Trump speaker. Robinson also made news by endorsing Budd at the event. And as Robinson left the stage, Budd thanked Robinson and received loud applause by calling him “our next governor.”