Donald Trump launched his 2020 presidential campaign in Florida this week with the kind of fiery talk that endears him to many across the Effingham area and angers his local detractors.
Addressing a crowd of thousands at the Amway Center in Orlando, Trump complained he had been "under assault from the very first day" of his presidency by a "fake news media" and "illegal witch hunt" that had tried to keep him and his supporters down, according to the Associated Press.
In the latest installment of the Effingham Daily News' "Pulse of the Voters" series, area residents weigh in about the topics that are important to them in the coming campaign.
Randy Hicks, 52, of Cowden, is a Republican who strongly believes Trump will win the 2020 election.
"I think he's going to win without a doubt," Hicks said. "I think most people will look at the economy and how it's doing, but he's done so much more than that."
"I don't think it's (the election) going to be based on how well the economy's doing, but I think it's going to be based on where we're at with China on trade and so forth," he added. "I think those are the two main issues that President Trump will win on."
Hicks said imposing tariffs on Chinese imports was the right choice to make because he said China has taken advantage of the United States over the years. China will likely give in first, Hicks said, because they have "so much more to lose" than the U.S. by way of trade.
Some of the benefits to Trump's tariffs, Hicks said, is bringing overseas jobs back into the U.S. and international companies choosing the United States to place their businesses.
Hicks said Trump was exactly what the country needed because he's a businessman, not a politician. He added that Trump is handling foreign policy, trade and the economy like it's a business and is putting military veterans at the forefront, and that's the way Hicks said it should be.
Hicks said Trump's biggest struggle in office has been getting Democratic politicians to work with him on issues such as immigration reform, something Hicks called a crisis. He said in the long run, building a wall on the country's southern border would be less expensive than taking in illegal immigrants.
"We do definitely need some immigration reform," Hicks said. "Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has went on record to say that she believes that walls are immoral. Well, let's think about that. There have been citizens in our country who have lost loved ones' lives that have been taken by an illegal immigrant; now, her not taking that into consideration, that is immoral.
"The Democrats need to work with President Trump on this and build the wall. They need to protect our citizens from those who wish to do us harm."
Hicks said he is unsure why a majority of the Democrats in Washington are not following laws that require a process for citizenship. He said on many issues in the nation and even in Illinois, Democrats are not doing what is necessary for the citizens they serve.
On the national level, Hicks said Democrats are still "bitter" about losing the 2016 election and are too occupied with investigating Russia's involvement in the election to focus on working together with Republicans and Trump.
"The Russia investigation was a witch hunt from the go," Hicks said. "If there's anybody that's guilty of obstruction, not in a criminal way, I think it's the Democrats because they want to stand in the way of anything that President Trump is trying to do."
Rachel Habbe, 23, of Effingham, wants to see her generation of millennials make a difference in the 2020 presidential election.
"A large part of our generation and a large part of the upcoming voter demographic, now that the baby boomer population is kind of declining, seems really apathetic to the whole voting situation and to politics itself because we kind of tend to buy into the distraction of social media and what's going on in celebrity news rather than environmental news or politics or what laws are going to be affecting possibly our jobs and even our retirement years from now," said Habbe.
Habbe describes herself as having Democratic leanings. She has a daughter, and so thinks about the future.
"There are things being passed that are impacting the future of our environment and the future of our employment and things that are going to impact our kids, and it might not even be on our radar right now," she said. "I feel like even kind of the president sort of ties into that because people get so distracted with whether or not they like our president, who is really just the face of the country than the doer when it comes to things that affect us on a daily basis."
Those distractions have caused citizens to esentially ignore issues like climate change and environmental issues, immigration and social issues, Habbe said. She wants to see a crackdown on large corporations and farming operations that are "putting out lots and lots of pollution."
She said the country must find alternative forms of energy, rather than rely on mining coal.
Since the 2016 presidential election, Habbe said the country's political mindset has shifted away from concern for the people and is focused more on monetary gain.
"They're putting getting us out of debt over really any other factor, including the damage we could be doing in trying to do so," Habbe said.
Lynn Kull, 73, was born and raised in Altamont, and considers himself a “Blue Dog” Democrat – that is, more centrist and fiscally conservative than more liberal branches of the party.
Kull, who owns a furniture business and funeral home, is a longtime member of the Altamont Lions Club and is United States Army veteran of the Vietnam era who served stateside at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Kull's grandfather was an immigrate from Prussia in 1871. So immigration is an important issue for him.
Kull compared immigration to attending a baseball game: Everyone has to have a ticket to get in and these days you have to go through security and metal detectors before finding your seat.
“Let's say you have about 40,000 people at a game and you have 500 coming up to the gate who don't have a ticket and say they are going in and don't go through metal detectors,” Kull said. “Then the 500 say we're going to eat what we want to eat, and sit where we're going to sit.”
“That's the same thing as not abiding by the law,” Kull said. “It's pretty simple, a wall, a gate and entry, abide by the rules.”
“You don't have a ticket, you're not going to get entry,” Kull added. “What is so hard to understand?”
Kull said he could see how immigrants are now are stuck in the middle of a bad situation due to what he thinks is corruption on the Mexican side of the boarder where they are charging money to bring them up to the U.S./Mexico boarder.
“There has got to be a legitimate way to get them into the country as our founding fathers did,” Kull said. “We're letting a lot of people in here that we don't even know who they are.”
Life-long Democrat Kenneth Tipsword, 70, of Edgewood, said Donald Trump is doing some things right – but the president can be hard to take, sometimes.
“What troubles me about him is basically his attitude,” said Tipsword. “All of my life our president has acted presidential. I don't feel that he is acting presidential. I think his actions and his comment on the World Stage demeans the United States a little bit.”
Tipsword believes Trump's push for a wall at the southern border is “all political” and a way to spend money that isn't necessary.
“I don't blame these immigrants for wanting to come here,” said Tipsword. “Most people fail to remember we are all descendants of immigrants – unless you are an American Indian.”
Susan Petty, 64, Effingham, is a Republican who describes herself as a "recovering Democrat." She's precinct committewoman for the GOP, a member of the Illinois Federation of Republican Women, and co-owner of Computer Conexon. She is helping to form an Effingham chapter of the Republican organization called “Eyes Right Open.”
She thanks God every day for Donald Trump.
Born into a strong Democrat family in Windsor, her parents were Democrats, and she had relatives working for the Democratic Party in Springfield.
But her own political allegiance flipped when she began working on local and state campaigns, including that of Adam Andrzejewski, who ran for Illinois governor as a Republican and later formed “Open the Books” to put the spotlight on how government spends tax dollars.
Her passion for the GOP also grew when Sarah Palin was picked as the Republican nominee for vice president during John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Petty said she really appreciated the no-nonsense approach of the former governor of Alaska.
“I loved Sarah Palin,” Petty said. “I wanted one of her yard signs, but never could find anyone at the Republican Party headquarters. I started volunteering there and listening to people talk about politics. Next thing I know, I’m precinct committeewoman for the Republican Party.”
She can't say enough about the direction Trump is taking the nation.
“I’m thrilled with all of the Trump accomplishments and his policies,” said Petty. “He would get an A-plus from me. I’m 100 percent satisfied with his job performance.”
She believes in the platform of the Republican party.
“The Republicans believe that Illinois is not a lost state,” said Petty. “It's got big problems, but it's not lost yet."
Petty favors Trump’s border wall.
“I’m not against immigrants,” said Petty. “My grandparents on both sides came over on the boat from Italy and France. I, like most Americans, want legal immigration. It makes no sense to me how someone can contribute to the fabric of our society if their first act as American is an illegal one.”
Although Illinois now has a Democratic governor and state legislature, and two Democrats representing it in the U.S. Senate, Petty thinks that will change.
“We’re going to flip Illinois red," she said. "I believe this. I’m passionate about the Republican party.”
Trump is a businessman. He runs the country like a business and that's what others in office should do, she said. She said it's about time a politician did what he or she said they were going to do when they were seeking office, as a candidate.
“I love his style,” said Petty. “His style, to some they call it brash, but I call it refreshing.”
Harold Hampton, 80, of Heartville, is a Democrat and retired artist. He voted for Hillary Clinton.
"I still think she was the best choice," he said. "Compared to what's in there now, she's a saint."
Hampton thinks that Trump inherited the current economic state that the United States is in.
"The economy would have moved up with or without him," he said.
Hampton has trouble believing that Trump is an honest leader.
"This guy lies every time you turn around," Hampton said.
Hampton has concerns that Trump will alienate the United States from its allies.
But talk of impeaching the president makes little sense to Hampton.
"I don't think it would pass due to a Republican controlled Senate," he said. "What we need to do is vote him out in 2020."
One of the candidates that he likes among the candidates for president is Joe Biden.
"Biden has strong values and I think he would be a strong president, but he's too nice," Hampton said "He's not strong enough to fight Trump in debates."
Jim Shelton, 78, is retired, a Democrat and grew up north of Altamont in Moccasin township. He is a veteran of the United States Army and has been a member of the Altamont Lions Club for 47 years.
“I always tell everyone I am a Libertarian, with Democratic tendencies,” Shelton said.
Shelton is passionate about the immigration issue.
“My people immigrated here and didn't have to go through Ellis Island,” Shelton said. “They came over on a ship called the Mayflower.”
Shelton is well aware that immigrants are making their way to the United States through the U.S./Mexican border.
“A lot of people criticize people now days because they move over here in a group and they bring their own religion and language,” Shelton said. “If you look right here in this community, 150 years ago that's what happened here, they were all white, they were German, they were all Lutheran and they all spoke German.”
“Then when you go to Teutopolis the Germans who immigrated there were Catholic,” Sheltorn said. “It's just history repeating itself.”
“But, I think there ought to be some control,” Shelton added. “I don't have anything against people coming over here and becoming citizens and being taxpayers. But, if they are coming over here just to live off of welfare and take advantage of the freebies society gives these people, I'm even against some of our own people getting those.”
Shelton said the president should be more focused on the issues of the country than himself.
“I agree with some of the things he's done, but it needs to be more about the country instead of about 'me.' Everything is about him,” Shelton said.