Local reaction to Republican Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House revealed a mix of joy, relief and despair among those from the political and business communities of Hall County.
“We need change,” Hall County Republican Party Chairwoman Debra Pilgrim said. “It’s evident with everything that’s gone wrong with the Obama administration the last eight years.”
Pilgrim said Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign was weaker than expected.
“She felt like she would solidly have the African-American vote,” Pilgrim added. “She did not.”
For local Democrats, Trump’s victory was a shock. Most polling had indicated Clinton had a slight advantage in swing states heading into Election Day.
“This is a sad day for our country, but we are encouraged by the fact that Secretary Clinton won the popular vote,” said Gabe Shippy, leader of the Young Democrats bloc of the Hall County Democratic Party. “This defeat will only serve to motivate and mobilize in stronger numbers than ever before as we prepare for elections in 2018 and 2020.”
Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said it’s too early to know how Trump will govern. His campaign was marked by erratic outbursts and populist appeal.
“It still takes a good while to change anything in Washington,” she added.
Dunlap said she expected that major changes to the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature policy achievement, are likely.
With Republicans now controlling the White House and both branches of Congress, there is growing speculation that Obamacare might be repealed.
“Nobody knows what that solution is,” Dunlap said. “It’s certainly not easy.”
Dunlap said she thinks other federal regulations viewed as harmful to private industry could be remedied.
“I personally expect some relief to small business and business, in general,” she said.
Nataly Morales Villa, a student at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, said immigrants and Latinos in Hall County are frightened by a coming Trump presidency.
“I fear for my peers, my community and family,” she said. “I fear for the open hate that is soon to be expressed.”
Morales was once an undocumented immigrant, but thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program she now has a green card and will soon become a citizen.
“I can only imagine the downfall of our economy, health care system, foreign policy, LGBT rights and the civil rights movement,” Morales said. “It is as if the country is retroceding to the era of segregation.”
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said Trump could “move our country away from the oppressive liberal agenda of government-dominated health care and burdensome regulations to unlock the great potential of our wonderful country.”
“Voters have chosen a vision for America that gives renewed hope to those of us who long to see our government work for the people and put our interests in the world first,” Collins said in a news release.
Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who won re-election, also congratulated Trump.
“We must promote a level playing field and institute commonsense, pro-job growth solutions. I can also promise that I will continue working to ensure that Georgia’s ports are ready to ship American goods wherever they are needed,” Isakson said in a news release.
“This campaign has felt similar to the movement in 1980 when President Ronald Reagan was elected. I look forward to our Republican-elected Congress going to work with President Trump to advance the ideals that made our American democracy great.”
Sheila Nicholas, chairwoman of the Hall County Democratic Party said her initial reaction was anger.
“Now, I am sad,” Nicholas said. “I am sad for my five children and my five grandchildren and their future. So much that I have worked a lifetime to change — voting rights, equal pay, a living wage, the right of a woman to make her own health decisions, the right to marry whom you wish — now seem to be in jeopardy.”
The Rev. Rose Johnson, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club civil rights group, said “it is now so very important that we not pull back, not retrench, but move forward in a way that keeps our attention directly focused on federal, state and local public policy issues that impact our very lives.”
Johnson urged unity.
“Our collective success depends upon how we care about each other and reach common ground to move the country forward,” Johnson said.