President Donald Trump appears at his campaign rally Monday evening at the Santa Ana Star Center. Photo by Gary Herron.

In what may well have been the biggest event in the history of Rio Rancho, Santa Ana Star Center was jam-packed with almost 9,000 people Monday evening for a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The City of Rio Rancho announced the following day that there were 8,704 attendees inside the Star Center; approximately 1,500 Trump supporters outside; 200 protesters, with three arrested; and about 350 law-enforcement and emergency medical responders around City Center.

President Donald Trump wants to capture New Mexico’s five electoral votes, and told the partisan crowd so. Two people were ejected late in his speech, when he quipped that the media would call that a “massive protest.”

He extolled many things that have happened nationally and in the Land of Enchantment since he took office in January 2017.

“Now you have a president who is standing up for America and we are standing up for New Mexico,” he said.

Inside the Star Center

Trump supporters hold up signs at his campaign rally inside the Santa Ana Star Center. Photo by Gary Herron.

The doors to the Star Center opened earlier than the originally planned time of 4 p.m. Around 5, there were an invocation, pledge of allegiance, national anthem, plus comments from a World War II veteran, Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, Steve Cortez of Latinos for Trump and state GOP Chairman Steve Pearce.

Trump walked into the arena at 7:25 p.m., drawing four minutes of applause and cheers before beginning what became a 95-minute speech, occasionally interrupted with applause, cheers and well-orchestrated chants.

The floor was packed and every seat filled.

During his time at the podium, Trump made it clear he despised the Democrats and the media; he later suggested the two groups were guilty of collusion.

Trump blasted the New York Times, which had apologized Sept. 15 for a tweet that said the type of misconduct in claims against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh “may seem like harmless fun” and updated its earlier article to reflect that the woman making the allegations reportedly didn’t recall the incident.

The Times then said the tweet was “clearly inappropriate and offensive.”

“I call for the resignations of everybody at the New York Times involved,” Trump said. “They’ve broken down the ‘old gray lady’; the Times is dead.”

The bulk of media members were opposite him on the north side of the Star Center, and clearly everyone knew that, often booing and pointing at the journalists.

As for the Democrats – each time he mentioned that word, boos could be heard — he said, they “want to completely annihilate New Mexico’s economy.”

And, he noted, Democrats oppose his border wall, which he vowed would be completed by the end of 2020. About 500 miles of it have been built, he said.

“Hispanic-Americans don’t want criminals coming across the border,” he said.

Trump also said, “Your politicians have not been loyal to you; they’ve been loyal to themselves.”

Among the tidbits Trump touted as good news:

  • “United States is now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world … American energy independence is what we have.”
  • “We’ve created 6 million new jobs since Election Day.”
  • “Unemployment recently reached its lowest rate in over 50 years.”
  • “More than 7 million Americans have been lifted off of food stamps.”
  • “Since my election, the number of new business applications for New Mexico has increased by almost 30 percent – more than any state in the United States.”
  • “The unemployment (rate) for Hispanic Americans is right now at the lowest level ever recorded … Median income for Hispanic Americans surpassed $50,000 for the first time ever.”
  • “Tax cuts and reforms … (mean) a typical family of four in New Mexico making $75,000 has seen their tax bill reduced by more than $2,000.”
  • “Jobs and factories are coming back home, where they belong … (If you don’t want to face tariffs), come and make your product in America; come and make your product in New Mexico.”
  • “We started off with 138 (federal judges), now we’re up to 180.”
  • “As a result of our non-stop efforts and millions and billions of dollars invested, last year we saw the first nationwide decline in drug overdoses – and it was a very big decline – in over three decades.”

A Trump supporter wears an Uncle Sam costume at the campaign rally. Photo by Gary Herron.

Deemed a success

Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull termed the event flawless.

“Everybody did what they were supposed to do,” he said. … “I just want to throw kudos out to all the law-enforcement public-safety people, first responders – all of the public servants out there – that participated in making this event really what I considered flawless.

“There were a few minor incidents where we had to take some action, but we got that resolved really quickly,” he said. …. Beautiful event – a real testament to not just Rio Rancho, but all the agencies that supported us in this endeavor in hosting the president of the United States.”