Apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump drew a crowd of more than 10,000 to the Charleston Civic Center Thursday for a campaign rally largely focused on revitalizing the coal industry.
Although the candidate shared few specifics about ways to bring the ailing industry back in West Virginia, he several times pointed to the weakening of regulations at the federal level as a way to help miners.
“If they didn’t have ridiculous regulations that put you out of business and make it impossible for you to compete, I’m going to take that off,” Trump said to loud cheers. “You are going to be proud of me.”
Trump received the endorsement of the West Virginia Coal Association shortly before the rally began and was joined on stage by Coal Association Vice President Chris Hamilton who presented him with a hard hat.
“How’s my hair?” Trump joked after trying the hat on.
It was his support of the coal industry that drew many of the West Virginians in attendance. Coal miner Derek Angel of Boone County said he believes Trump is going to put coal back on the map.
“Our county, our state, everything has been on the decline and it’s pushing everybody out of the state of West Virginia,” Angle said. “So, it kind of gives people a sense of hope to even be a coal miner.”
Republican candidate for Governor Bill Cole introduced Trump and House Speaker Tim Armstead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, Del. Josh Nelson and Democratic Del. Rupie Phillips were among those in the crowd.
“I cannot support a candidate who does not support coal,” Phillips said before the rally.
Twice during the 45 minute speech, Trump told supporters he had already won the party nomination and there was no need for voters to head to the polls in the primary.
“Stay at home,” Trump told the crowd, “and get twice as many people to vote in November.”
Early voting is already underway in the state. West Virginia's primary election is May 10.