Donald Trump was soundly defeated last November in California, but that certainly didn’t mean he lacked Golden State supporters.
Now, some of the most fervent among that group – including backers from the central San Joaquin Valley – are preparing to head to Washington, D.C., next week to watch him be sworn in as the nation’s 45th president.
Trump will be sworn in Friday on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. Lots of other events are taking place in conjunction with the swearing-in ceremony.
The common thread for most locals headed east is they are fervent Trump supporters.
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I’m a big Trump fan. I’m pumped to be able to go see this huge transition.
Fresno attorney Nate Miller
“I’m so excited I can’t stand it,” Fresno attorney Nate Miller said. “I’m a big Trump fan. I’m pumped to be able to go see this huge transition.”
Miller, probably better than most, knows there are lots of Californians who don’t like Trump. One of those is his brother-in-law, Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula. The Fresno Democrat is married to Miller’s sister. It makes for some lively political debates because Miller is sold on the New York businessman.
“It’s exciting to me to have a Republican president who is more business-oriented,” Miller said. “Hopefully (Trump) will cut some federal red tape. I’m excited to see the (gross domestic product) grow, excited to see jobs created. Hopefully things will start to flourish and get better.”
Fresno businessman Michael Der Manouel Jr. is another strong Trump supporter who has spared nothing – either on Twitter or in a daily radio commentary on radio station KMJ (AM580/FM 105.9) – in his defense of the president-elect.
That said, Der Manouel is going because of the historical value.
“It’s just a bucket-list deal,” he said. “It’s history.”
Some, such as Der Manouel, are familiar Valley names steeped in politics. Others, however, aren’t as well known. For most interviewed, this is the first time they’ve attended an inauguration. That includes Der Manouel, who would have gone to the 2000 inauguration of George W. Bush except that his daughter was born just a few days earlier.
Giving out tickets
Rep. Devin Nunes’ office has given out close to 200 tickets to the inauguration. The Tulare Republican is a member of the Trump transition team’s executive committee.
Rep. Jim Costa’s office also has handed out tickets – around 150 – even though he is a Democrat.
Not every ticket, however, went to a Republican.
Pat Brown, a member of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, got tickets from Costa before the November election. At the time, she thought she would be watching Hillary Clinton take the oath of office.
“It’s a sad day for all of us Democrats,” she said of the upcoming ceremony. “We had so many great expectations for Hillary.”
Still, Brown is headed east. She left Thursday for a weeklong trip to New York and Washington and will participate in the Women’s March on Washington, which is planned for the day after the inauguration and will focus on protecting women’s rights. Brown knows personally of 10 people headed to the march, and their focus is on issues such as climate change.
As for the inauguration, Brown isn’t sure what she will do.
She figures there will be pressure for her to give the tickets away to a Republican. But Brown, a scholar of presidential politics her entire life, never has been to an inauguration.
It’s a sad day for all of us Democrats.
Pat Cook of Fresno on Trump’s inauguration
So while Trump will be the top bill, it seems the nation’s capital won’t be a Republican town. It will be, like much of the nation, divided between Republicans and Democrats, Trump haters and supporters.
“I’m expecting to have a really good time,” said Kings County farmer and rancher Vernon Costa.
Costa was in the capital for congressional swearing-in ceremonies last week and already was grasping the historic significance of the coming inaugural as he watched the security preparations begin.
Beyond the ceremony itself, there will be lots of balls and parties. Initially a fan of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Costa eventually warmed to Trump after Rubio bowed out. In the summer, Costa caught the political fever after being a delegate at the Republican National Convention.
Fresno resident Marcelino Valdez, the state Republican Party’s central region vice chairman, will attend the inauguration with his wife and expects to hear from Trump “a lot of the upbeat optimism the country desperately is wanting to hear.”
He thinks Trump will sum up his accomplishments as a president-elect and hint at a few things that may be coming during his administration’s first 100 days.
It won’t be cheap
The one hurdle everyone has confronted is cost. The tickets are free, but not much else is.
“As soon as we won, I said I want to be there,” Miller said. “I wanted to witness this.”
But the hotel and airfare will cost him $5,000 – and that doesn’t even include food.
Der Manouel estimates he will spend $10,000 on the weekend.
Several attendees are aware that many Valley residents couldn’t afford to go to the event.
Valdez appealed to his wife’s sense of history.
To justify the trip, he told her “how many opportunities do we get like this? This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to squander it. It will be a financial strain, yes, but I didn’t want to pass on it.”
John Ellis: @johnellis24