President Donald Trump will stop Thursday at Columbia Regional Airport to campaign for Missouri Republicans but organizers and local officials are mum on many of the details, such as where and when parking will be available and where protesters, if any, will be given space for their message.
Officials with Columbia Jet Center, Inc., which is hosting the event, declined to provide event information. Field operations manager Michael Hayes said he could not discuss the event and referred questions to the White House Press Office.
The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and gates will open at 3:30 p.m. Only people with tickets, secured through the Trump-Pence campaign website, will be allowed into the rally.
Vanessa Morrone, White House Director of Regional Communications, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
City spokesman Steve Sapp said the event is a private function and he did not have any details.
“We don’t know and we have told Columbia Jet Center that is their responsibility,” Sapp said. “It’s not really a city event. Columbia Jet Center has been told very clearly that this is their event and they have to come up with that information. We are kind of beholden to them to tell us what they plan to do.”
Democrats and their supporters are not planning a major counter-demonstration near the airport. Instead, the Boone County Democratic Party, along with the groups Our Revolution and Como For Progress, are inviting supporters to come at 5 p.m. to the Boone County Courthouse for what they are calling a “Rally for Sanity.”
“We are staying focused on our get-out-the-vote efforts,” said Lyra Noce, chairwoman of the Boone County Democratic Central Committee. “We want to talk to neighbors and friends and we don’t want to be distracted from our goal, which is representation that really listens.”
Our Revolution is not a direct-action resistance group, said leader Kory Davis. By holding a rally in downtown Columbia, Davis said, the group can focus on the issues it thinks are important as it tries to get out voters next Tuesday.
“Trump is really good in controlling the narrative by inciting reactions in people,” Davis said. “This will take the focus away from him in a way that allows us to tell our stories.”
The Trump rally will be in the 50th Missouri House District, which excites incumbent state Rep. Sara Walsh, a Republican in a tough re-election battle.
“I am very proud that the president has chosen, among all the places he could visit, to come to the 50th District,” Walsh said. “People are proud the economy is doing so well, they are happy about the tax cut and there is a lot of support for Justice Kavanaugh.”
Walsh’s Democratic opponent, Michela Skelton, said she will briefly attend the downtown rally to ask for help with her last-minute push in the district. She will then spend the rest of the day visiting voters, she said.
She is not happy with Trump’s visit.
“I have strived for the last year and a half to keep everything that I talk about in my district very local and on specifically local issues,” Skelton said. “I don’t like it primarily because it is going to turn our local state rep races into a national referendum when it should be a referendum on the politics and policies of the Republicans in Jeff City.”
The rally will not disrupt airport operations, Sapp said. Flights will depart and arrive as scheduled, although only one incoming flight is scheduled during the event time frame. Those attending the rally will not be able to park in the main airport lot reserved for passengers.
Airport operations manager Jason Thomas also declined to answer any questions about the event, also referring inquiries to the White House Press Office.
Columbia police will supplement presidential security alongside the U.S. Secret Service. The cost in terms of manpower may be mitigated by the president not participating in a motorcade-type event. However, how many officers and the dollar amount taxpayers will pay for the visit were also unanswered at press time.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department also will assist with security, but declined to provide any details on what its role or what the costs will be.
It is expected the Missouri State Highway Patrol will also assist with the president’s security detail. Troop F spokesman Sgt. Scott White did not immediately return a call seeking comment on its role or potential costs.