Mike Pence, the Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential nominee, promised Virginia Beach residents Thursday afternoon that Donald Trump would support law enforcement officers and veterans.
Pence spoke to a crowd of about 100 people who attended a town hall meeting at the Founders Inn and Spa, located at 5641 Indian River Rd. Many of those in attendance held signs supporting the ticket.
“The first thing I will tell you that Donald Trump and I believe about the benefits that are available to our veterans, is that they are not benefits, they are what you earned in the uniform,” Pence said.
Trump has a 10-point plan for “fixing the VA,” and things would start to change on day one of his administration, Pence added, referring to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We’re going to make sure we have the highest quality of care,” he said. If a veteran can’t get care in a reasonable period of time in a VA facility, Donald Trump would make sure they could get treatment close by, he said.
Though he spoke of unity, Pence was careful to separate Trump’s agenda from Clinton’s.
After describing a $400 million payment to the Iranian government in January as a “ransom payment,” Pence said President Barack Obama and Clinton violated the long-standing American policy of not paying ransom or doing deals with terrorists – an allegation Obama has denied.
“In a Trump-Pence administration, we will not negotiate or compensate those who threaten our people,” he said.
At one point, Pence asked for applause for law enforcement and later asked veterans to stand for recognition. The audience applauded then, too. Pence noted Virginia’s pull in the presidential election, and that Clinton’s vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, hails from the state. He emphasized the importance of backing from Virginians, and asked attendees to spread their support throughout the state.
“I hope you leave here today better equipped to go talk to your neighbors and friends here in Virginia,” Pence said. “Because Virginia will loom large in this decision.”
During a question-and-answer session, one attendee thanked Pence for visiting and asked about LGBT rights at the national level. He asked Pence whether or not there would be a place for diversity of opinion in the general election.
Pence said he believed these are issues best worked out at the state level.
Another attendee, who identified herself as a volunteer for the AARP, asked what the Trump administration would do to protect and stabilize social security.
In conversation, Pence said, Trump told him they would keep their promise to seniors, and social security and medicare and would improve the services.
Reactions from those who went to the town meeting were divided.
One Virginia Beach resident registered her support for Trump and her opposition to Clinton. Kathy Dennehy, a retired Navy mother who attended the event with her daughter and grandson, dismissed Clinton’s ability to run the country.
“I think she’s the most corrupt and disgusting person on the planet,” Dennehy said. “If she’s not smart enough to handle classified emails and documents, she’s not smart enough to run our country.”
Dave Belote, chair of the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee, took a contrary view. He showed up for the meeting because “Donald Trump and Mike Pence are dangerous for America and dangerous for the world,” he said.
Belote, a retired Air Force pilot, said Trump lacks empathy and doesn’t understand the concept of nuclear deterrence. He also referred to Trump’s recent remarks about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son was killed in Iraq while serving in the Army.
“Anybody who can rake a Gold Star family through the coals repeatedly doesn’t deserve to be anywhere close to the White House,” Belote said, using the name for relatives of soldiers who died in combat.
Pence also spoke in Norfolk Thursday night at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott on East Main Street.