For those wondering why presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign picked Whatcom County for his Western Washington rally on Saturday, May 7, it was sort of a last resort.
Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale and operations director for the presumptive Republican nominee’s Western Washington campaign, said a contract for hangar space at Boeing Field near Seattle was all prepared and signed off, but King County officials refused to issue a needed permit.
“King County is not very good to work with,” Ericksen said Friday morning. “We had contracts with a hangar provider and at the last moment King County refused to issue permits.”
But a King County spokesman contends the campaign’s agreements were with a private tenant who didn’t ask airport staff about the plan until Wednesday morning, May 4.
At that time, staff reminded the tenant that their lease requires a plan be submitted for events that size, including plans for parking, crowd control, and safety, said Frank Abe, a King County Department of Transportation spokesman.
“The tenant did not submit any plans,” Abe said. “They discussed it, they said this came up, but no request, no written request, as required of the terms of the lease, for any kind of event was submitted.”
The fact that the first meeting with airport staff was on Wednesday morning shows the short amount of time King County Airport had to respond, Abe said.
When asked for clarification, Ericksen said he was not authorized by the Trump campaign to speak on the issue any further.
“All I can say is King County is going to say what King County is going to say,” Ericksen said.
Earlier in the day, Ericksen explained that once the plans to hold the event closer to Seattle fell through, the campaign had looked at maybe 50 other places before Lynden was picked as the location.
“We tried looking at (Bellingham International) airport and unfortunately there weren’t hangar spaces that fit the bill for what we needed,” Ericksen said.
Trump will fly into Bellingham on his private 757, dubbed by some as “Trump Force One,” and then head to the Northwest Washington Fair grandstand in Lynden, which officially contracted for the event late Thursday night. Police expected the travel route wouldn’t be known until just before the event.
Only people who are flying in or out of the airport that day will be allowed in the building, and airport staff urged people not to try to go to the airport.
The short notice put police agencies, restaurants, and both fans and opponents of Trump into a rushed planning mode.
The Whatcom County Republican Party was helping people sign up for tickets, especially those who were not as technologically savvy as younger folks, said Charlie Crabtree, party chair.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s just a matter of trying to facilitate those people that want to get tickets and go,” he said. “And to make certain they realize they can’t take a lot of stuff into the event.”
Homemade signs, cameras other than cell phones, and other items will likely not be allowed in, Crabtree said.
Another key component of planning is what time to get there.
People should prepare to get there early if they want to be sure to get through the gates, because having a printed ticket does not guarantee entry, Crabtree said.
“There will be long lines and the doors open at noon. It’s supposed to start at 3 o’clock, but in my experience with political things like this we would be very lucky if things took off at that time,” Crabtree said. “So just be prepared for a long haul.”
The weather is supposed to be sunny and in the mid-70s Saturday.
The event will be exciting no matter what people think about the candidate, Crabtree said. He hoped people would be respectful of each other, and peaceful.
“I just hope everybody is safe and everybody understands they’re there to be a little part of a big piece of Whatcom County history,” Crabtree said. “We’ll tell our people just don’t get involved in fights. What else do you tell people?”
Within hours of the announcement that Trump would hold his rally in Lynden, plans for protest events started popping up on Facebook.
Most of them planned to meet in front of the fairgrounds around 2 p.m., which could mean there will be many people opposing Trump outside the event right next to supporters who don’t make it in the door by the time the venue reaches capacity.
Local police agencies will work with the U.S. Secret Service on securing the event, and have set up a central command at the Emergency Operations Center through Whatcom Unified Emergency Management.
Gov. Jay Inslee held a press conference Friday afternoon with Hispanic and Muslim community leaders to say Trump was not welcome in Washington, and to urge people to speak out against the candidate.
Another speaker at the conference urged people to turn out to the Lynden event in large groups, as “there is strength and safety in numbers.”
Washington state Presidential Primary
Voters should start receiving their Washington state Presidential Primary ballots in the mail any time. The primary is May 24.
The ballot requires voters to say which party they associate with and to only vote for a candidate from that party.
However, Democrats already assigned their delegates based on March caucuses held throughout the state, and although Republicans agreed to use the results of the primary to assign delegates, Trump is the only remaining Republican candidate after Ted Cruz and John Kasich suspended their campaigns earlier this week.