Vice President Mike Pence, the latest high-profile out-of-state figure to campaign on behalf of Greg Gianforte, spoke Friday at MetraPark in Billings. 

But it was President Donald J. Trump who attendees and protesters mentioned when explaining why they were in the sun on a hot May afternoon. 

Holly Mangum, her 9-year-old son Casey, Kayla LaFountain, and LaFountain's 1-year-old daughter Ayva arrived after the doors had already opened for the rally at the Montana Pavilion. 

"We're for Trump," Mangum said. "We're fully Trump supporters, and I feel like the guy they're rallying for today fully supports Trump and all his policies and views. I did a lot of research on (Hillary) Clinton, and she's an evil person."

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff
Greg Gianforte arrives at the Mike Pence rally at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Friday, May 12, 2017.

LaFountain put it succinctly. "Trump's real. Hillary's just fake in my eyes."

Protest

The Democratic candidate for Montana's May 25 special election is musician and cowboy poet Rob Quist, and about 100 protesters came out to support Quist and denounce Trump. 

One protestor, Amy Gill, wore a "Pillamina" costume and stood among pink-clad crowd in support of Planned Parenthood.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff
Protesters hold signs at the Mike Pence rally for Greg Gianforte at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Friday.

"I've been on birth control since I was 16 and a lot of it wasn't for sex. It was for health issues," Gill said. "I had a lot of period problems, and I needed a way to control that. Birth control kind of saved my life in that way. What I do with my body is of no concern to anyone else, and people don't realize that for some reason."

Nearby, Bridget Neils held a sign saying "If you cut off my reproductive choice, can I cut off yours?"

"I think it's offensive that Gianforte is trying to defund Planned Parenthood," she said. "I went to Planned Parenthood in high school, and it was a really safe and nonjudgmental place for me to get essential health care that I really needed." 

Toward the end of the line of pink stood Bill McCrae.

"I'm profoundly concerned about the direction this country is taking under the current administration. I cannot in any way shape or form imagine good coming of it. It will only get worse if Gianforte is elected," McCrae said. He said Richard Nixon looked saintly compared to Trump, citing when the president fired former FBI Director James Comey in the midst of an investigation into the Trump presidential campaign's possible ties to Russia.

"We have a reality show president who seems to think he can bully and bluff his way through office."

'A good guy'

Tom Tuck came from Belgrade with his granddaughter to see Pence.

Tuck said he was part of the Montana delegation to the Republican National Convention last summer and is a strong supporter of Trump. Tuck believes Gianforte will support the president's agenda in Congress.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff
Faith Reynolds of Orlando, Florida, sets up a merchandise table at the Mike Pence rally for Greg Gianforte at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Friday, May 12, 2017.

"Greg's a good guy. He's a strong man of faith that really loves America," Tuck said. "I think he'll do a good job. I think he'll do, honestly, a better job than Zinke was doing." 

The most important issue at stake in this election is "peace," Tuck said. "One of the things Donald Trump, I think, was very successful running on was not trying to get so involved in so many foreign adventures." 

Among the first in line to see Pence was John Turcotte. Turcotte said he believes Gianforte can't easily be bought. With the candidate's wealth and business background, Gianforte will vote and act in Montanans' interests, he said.

"People in Congress breathe, take up seats and space. But what have they done?" Turcotte said. "Greg Gianforte can stand up, say 'no' or 'yes' and mean it." 

McRae saw it differently, arguing Quist's lesser wealth is not a liability, but an asset that will help him understand Montanans. 

"A man with those kinds of resources (that Gianforte has) simply cannot understand what most Montanans face on a day-to-day basis," McRae said. "Quist does because he's suffered through those slings and arrows, if you will." 

Nick Wolf and John Wardell stood quietly behind the protesters, holding signs in support of the Second Amendment and ending the Federal Reserve. Both said they intend to vote for Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks. 

"Democrats and Republicans are equal to me," Wardell said. "Republicans say they're for small government until they get elected. Democrats say they're for the people until they get elected. It's all a bunch of bullcrap." 

Not everyone in the crowd had decided their vote. 

"I've got some pretty good ideas," said Mitch Anderson, who waited in line to see Pence with his 20-year-old daughter Michelle. "But I haven't (made up my mind)."

Outbrain