When Donald Trump takes the oath of office Friday to become the nation’s 45th president, he will have the backing of nearly 63 million Americans.
More than 1.2 million Washingtonians cast votes for the New York businessman — including 146,824 in Pierce County. Those who believed in Trump’s message seldom wavered in their support.
On the eve of a new political era in America, The News Tribune interviewed three residents who voted for Trump.
Common themes emerged: concerns about immigration and the economy, and excitement for a new president who means business and isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
Cyndi Hoenhous, South Hill
Cyndi Hoenhous, 39, will be watching the inauguration with her grandmother, May Hoenhous.
“She’s the one who lent us her house for all the campaign phone calling and making signs and the election party,” Cyndi Hoenhous said.
Hoenhous is a registered Republican, but up until the recent presidential campaign, she and her husband considered themselves independents.
“I would never have backed a candidate,” she said.
Then came Donald Trump.
“He’s common sense,” Hoenhous said. “He’s a free thinker. He has leadership skills. He does what he says and he’s able to get things done. That’s why we backed him.”
During the often contentious campaign, her family gathered with others at local intersections to wave Trump signs. It was an antidote to constant sign stealing, she said, and sent a message.
“We just stood out there to show that we’re normal people and normal families,” Hoenhous said. “We weren’t racist or anything like that. We’re just normal people who believed in change in policies. We weren’t who the media was saying we were at the time.”
Her group of like-minded individuals called themselves the Pierce County Trump pep squad.
“I think everybody knows I support Mr. Trump,” Hoenhous said.
Others were not so bold.
“People were afraid because they were intimidated by the stigma that went with it,” she said.
She admires Trump for the unorthodox way he campaigned.
“He’s broken a lot of the rules,” she said. “The role of the media certainly is one of them.”
Hoenhous, who home-schools her 16-year-old son, said education is important to her. She hopes Trump’s education policies will support charter schools.
She wants to see increased state control over curriculum and wants to make it easier to fire teachers who don’t perform well.
“I know with the teacher’s union it’s very hard to do that,” Hoenhous said.
She expects Trump to increase military spending, which would be a boon for the many military-related jobs in Washington. Her husband works at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.
Hoenhous feels emboldened now.
“He’s given me — and a lot of other conservatives — hope to speak our minds,” she said. “Especially in this state. We feel like we have to hide if we don’t believe the same as the liberal side.
“It’s OK to believe in the conservative agenda.”
James Lewis, Gig Harbor
James Lewis, 49, began the political season as a registered Democrat and supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.
“After all that rigmarole with how the DNC (Democratic National Committee) railroaded him … there was no way I was going to support Hillary,” he said. “I just don’t trust her. I never have.”
Lewis said he believes eight years of Democratic control of the White House has put the country on the wrong track. He thinks Trump can effect a course correction.
“I hope he closes up the immigration loops and makes it harder for just anybody to come here,” Lewis said. “I am just as worried about terrorist attacks on our homeland as most of the country is as we see what’s happening around the world every single day.”
Stronger borders mean less crime, he said, though he acknowledges that much of it is home-grown.
Lewis doesn’t support the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
“I rely on state and federal insurance for my health care and I’m still OK with Trump,” he said. “If I have to give up some of my conveniences to help this country, then I’m OK with that.”
Lewis is semi-retired, and he’s concerned about jobs.
“I want to see this country get back to work again,” he said. “I want jobs to come back to this country. I don’t think it’s right how all of our jobs have been shipped overseas like they have for the past decade or so. I see a lot of hardworking people whose livelihood is gone.”
Like many Trump supporters, he’s a fan of how the billionaire has shaken up the establishment.
“I like how he’s not scared of the media,” he said. “I don’t like how they’ve painted him in such a negative light. Granted, he’s rough around the edges.”
He thinks the press hasn’t treated Trump fairly.
“You can’t get them to say a positive thing about what Trump is doing at all,” Lewis said. “It’s all negative this and negative that.
“They’ve got half the country thinking the Republicans are going to jerk their life-sustaining insurance out from under them. I don’t believe that our government would do that.”
Lewis also likes Trump’s policies on energy and taxes.
While he doesn’t hide his support of Trump, he doesn’t flaunt it either.
“I don’t want to upset people because I respect their opinions as well,” he said. “But I think this whole ‘snowflake generation’ is out of control.”
Lewis hasn’t lost any friends over his support of Trump but wishes people could gain a broader perspective.
“People are not willing to set aside their own personal differences and opinions to see the whole grand picture,” he said.
Jason Brinar, Tacoma
Jason Brinar, 46, is a downtown Tacoma businessman. Along with wife, Brandy, he owns Brandy’s Attic, an antique store on Broadway.
“I’m excited for his presidency,” Brinar said, adding that Trump’s business acumen first attracted him to the candidate.
“The country should be run as a business, instead of as a blank check,” Brinar said. “If a businessman ran our government for a while, he could take care of some of the government waste.”
He admires Trump’s negotiating skills and said he thinks he can give the economy a boost, though, “I know that’s not going to happen overnight.”
“If he doesn’t know the answer, he’ll find someone who does,” Brinar said. “It’s just hiring the right person for the job.”
Brinar likes most of Trump’s tough stand on immigration.
“Anyone who has been convicted, who is an illegal immigrant, shouldn’t be here,” he said.
Brinar acknowledges that practically all Americans are descended from immigrants, if not immigrants themselves.
“But we had to go through a process,” he said. “Everyone had to work for their things. I have no problem with people wanting to work to make a better life for themselves.”
Brinar likes that Trump isn’t concerned with offending political sensibilities. Political correctness, he said, has reached “absurd” levels in the United States.
“He’s not going to be as politically correct in getting things done,” Brinar said.
He said he thinks Trump already has changed the political landscape for the better — on all sides.
“He has effected people to speak up, either for or against him,” Brinar said. “The liberals are definitely more boisterous now than they ever were before. Maybe some of them will vote more. It all came down to voting. If there were more going the other direction, he wouldn’t be president right now.”
Brinar supports peaceful demonstrations, even against Trump.
“People are afraid it’s not going their way and they’re speaking up about it,” he said. “That’s our democracy.”
Brinar isn’t shy about his support for Trump.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who knows me who doesn’t know that I voted for Trump,” he said.
And that includes his family.
“Even my wife gives me a little bit of crap for supporting him.”