Trump rallies Tennessee supporters ahead of midterms

President Donald Trump takes the stage during his Oct. 1 rally in Johnson City ahead of the November midterm elections.  Photo by Noah McKay.

President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to vote for Republican candidates in Tennessee at a rally in Johnson City Oct. 1 and warned of a potential “democratic takeover” in the upcoming general election.

Trump spoke in front of a capacity crowd of 8,500 people at Freedom Hall in the first visit made by a president to the area since 2009. 

“I look forward to being back in the great state of Tennessee with thousands of hard-working American patriots,” Trump said.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe said 92,000 people requested tickets for the event. Local news sources reported over 20,000 people watched the rally from outside the venue.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. She is running against Democratic nominee and former governor Phil Bredesen. Polls show the candidates are virtually tied in the race, according to Real Clear Politics.

Bill Lee is the Republican gubernatorial nominee. He defeated U.S. Rep. Diane Black, state Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Randy Boyd in August to win the nomination. He is running against Democratic nominee Karl Dean. 

Trump opened his 90-minute speech holding up a shirt that said “Tennessee for Trump” and speaking about the country’s growing economy. 

“Jobless claims are at a 50-year low and the stock market is at an all-time high,” Trump said. “The economy is booming, wages are rising and more Americans are working than ever before.” 

The U.S. unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, the lowest unemployment rate since 1969, according to the latest jobs report released by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. 

He also spoke about a new trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, saying it is the largest trade deal in the history of the United States and that it is “a great deal for our country.” 

“It’s going to produce jobs, and companies aren’t going to be leaving and firing everybody and making products and sending it back into the United States,” Trump said.

He then moved into the point of his visit to Tennessee: his endorsements of Lee and Blackburn. 

Blackburn took the stage and said she was running to take “Tennessee values” to Washington D.C. and asked rally participants for their vote. 

Trump also spoke about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual assault allegations made against him by multiple women.

“They’re trying to destroy a very fine person,” Trump said. “We can’t let it happen.” 

A group of about 20 people protested the rally as attendees departed. They held signs reading “health care for all” and “I believe victims.” 

Police prevented student reporters from interviewing the protestors.

Early voting in the midterm elections begins Oct. 17 and runs through Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 6.