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Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg rallies at Tri-Cities Airport, urges unity

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Feb 28, 2020 at 10:09 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Speaking to a crowd of supporters gathered inside a Tri-Cities Airport hangar Friday night, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg touched on a wide range of topics, centering on a familiar theme: Unity.

“I’m running to restore honor to our government and to build a country that we’re proud of and to start getting things done — and to start putting ‘united’ back in the United States of America,” Bloomberg said to a roar of applause.

In the crowd were supporters from all backgrounds, including several veterans.

Dan Shipley, a Navy veteran who served in the 1950s and ’60s, said he felt Bloomberg was “the only one who can beat Trump,” and added that Bloomberg “has more sense” than the rest of the crowded Democratic field, which still has eight candidates seeking the party’s nomination ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries next week.

Roy McCrary, a Navy veteran who served during World War II, echoed similar sentiments about President Trump.

“I think (Bloomberg) is a good man,” McCrary said. “ I think he’s smart and I think he can beat Trump.”

In an interview with the Press after the rally, Bloomberg expressed optimism he’ll be able to secure a number of Tennessee’s 64 delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday, though he conceded that beating President Trump in Tennessee in November would be a tall task.

“I suspect it would be hard statewide,” Bloomberg said, noting that wasn’t the primary goal of Friday’s visit. “I came to Northeastern Tennessee because I’ve never been here before and I keep saying I want to unite the whole country, so it might be nice for me to see the whole country as much as I can.”

Outside of the airport a small number of pro-Trump protesters gathered, along with a few who attended the rally, including Craig Widner who wore one of the president’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats.

“I support what our president supports as far as the economy, the Second Amendment, things of that nature, but I respect anybody who will show up here in East Tennessee in a very conservative area,” Widner said. “I’ll come listen to what they have to say, it’s probably not going to change my mind but I’ll come listen.”

Another Trump supporter who wore a similar “Keep America Great” hat was escorted out of the hanger after interrupting Bloomberg’s speech as he discussed how he his presidency would benefit farmers. As the man was removed by security, the crowd began chanting “I like Mike.”

“I’m a believer that we have to bring this country together, and Trump is pulling it apart,” Bloomberg said after the rally.

Vicki Powers and Amanda Finley, who are part of the Tri-Cities’ Moms Demand Action chapter, attended the rally in support of his policies on gun safety and gun control.

“I’m here today becasue Mike Bloomberg has been a huge asset for my biggest cause and that’s Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action,” said Finley, who lost her brother to gun violence. “We’re not taking away the Second Amendment, it’s about keeping people safe from gun violence, and Mike has been a huge supporter and a leader in that.”

Bloomberg, a multi-billionaire, has supported both programs financially and politically, and founded Everytown for Gun Safety in 2013.

In closing his speech, Bloomberg called on supporters to spread his message, and reaffirmed his campaign promise to “get things done.”

“If you’re ready to clean out the Oval Office and get things done, then welcome to Bloomberg 2020,” he said.

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