Fresh off a decisive string of primary victories in the Northeast, Donald J. Trump's presidential campaign announced today that the Orange County fairgrounds in Costa Mesa will be the site for its California kickoff event, as the state's June 7 primary looms ever large in the race for the GOP nomination.
With his wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island Tuesday, Trump sits at 987 delegates. So with 10 primaries before June 7, a strong showing in California could easily put him past the 1,237 he needs to cinch the nomination and avoid a contested convention in July.
The campaign has apparently decided there is no better place to get things started than behind the so-called Orange Curtain in one of the state's most Republican counties. And if Tuesday's Anaheim City Council meeting is any indication, things could get ugly, even by Trump standards.
Before the meeting, in which city leaders discussed condemning Trump's "divisive rhetoric," pro and anti-Trump protesters clashed outside city hall. A grandmother and her two young granddaughters -- all Trump supporters -- were reportedly pepper sprayed by an anti-Trump protester. Another woman was seen going after a man with her taser.
The rally is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the fairgrounds' Pacific Amphitheater, with the doors open to the public starting at 4 p.m. The campaign first contacted fairgrounds staff Monday to inquire about the amphitheater's availability, but did not make the reservation until early Wednesday morning.
Listening closely, one might have heard a collective groan from the Fair Board's majority-Democratic members when they were first notified of the event on Wednesday.
"As divisive and sometimes disgusting as Trump's speech is, the fairgrounds is a public facility and therefore we must allow him to come and exercise his right of free speech," said Fair Board Vice Chairman Nick Berardino. "Sometimes we just have to hold our noses and take big gulps to protect our democratic principals."
Fair Board Chairman Gerardo Mouet said that although he was certain there was nothing the board could do legally to prevent the rally from taking place, he still asked staff to check with the state Attorney General's Office, which is the board's legal counsel.
"Just because we disagree, doesn't mean we can deny," Mouet said. "But boy they better follow the rules…if someone is disrespected, I won't like it. The fairgrounds is about respect, its about diversity…the fairgrounds is the county's town square."
On its Facebook page, the Democratic Party of Orange County urged people to show up to the fairgrounds to protest Trump.
"We want to send a message to Donald Trump!" the message read. "We in Orange County do not agree with his biggoted and misognistic (sic) ways and we will not stand quietly as he brings these views into our county!"
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