WILLMAR - Organizers of the Willmar "We Have Your Back" rally in support of President Donald Trump have said over 200 people attended the event at the Kandi Entertainment Center on Saturday. And while high winds and cooler temperatures had some leaving early, or staying in the comfort of their vehicles, a dedicated group stood outside for three hours to listen to several speakers and show their backing of the president and the conservative agenda.
"Seventy percent of rural America voted for Donald J. Trump. If that isn't a mandate I don't know what is. He won, get over it," said Bob Enos of Willmar, one of the organizers. Enos, a former Willmar City Council candidate and government critic, along with Ron Brantsner and Terry Serbus of Olivia, were behind bringing the support rally to Willmar.
Brantsner, who speaks across the upper Midwest about immigration and refugee resettlement, said he saw this rally as a chance for conservatives to take back their party.
"Get the Republican Party back on its feet again. We can't let our guard down. We won the battle, but not the war," Brantsner said.
One of the stated goals of the event is the defeat of U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson, who has represented Minnesota's U.S. Congressional District 7 for over 25 years.
"We feel Collin Peterson has spent way too much time, he is entrenched," Brantsner said.
District 17A State Representative Tim Miller, Amanda Hinson and David Hughes, who are either already running, or might run, against Peterson, all spoke at the rally.
While Miller is optimistic with Trump in the White House, he still foresees hard times ahead for the country.
"We are entering a time of civil war. We must stay engaged," Miller said, adding that there are two distinct views of what the country should be and a crossroads is approaching.
"Government doesn't create prosperity, the people do. God, in his grace, has given us another chance," Miller said.
Hinson, who was a Republican candidate for the District 7 seat last year, spoke on healthcare. She said programs like MnCare, should be available for those who really need it, like her family some years back.
"To help people in desperate situations that are temporary," Hinson said. She doesn't agree with forcing people long-term on government run health care programs and feels a deal still might be struck to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
"We are ready to take healthcare to the state level. It is our time, we are the majority," Hinson said.
David Hughes, who lost to Peterson in the 2016 election, thinks unseating Peterson is still possible.
"It's time to turn Minnesota 7 red again," Hughes said.
Representatives from the state and national Republican party thanked Willmar for their support.
"I want to take my hat off to you," said Janet Beihoffer, national committeewoman of Minnesota for the Republican National Committee.
Rick Rice, Minnesota Republican Party finance chair, said Trump is keeping his promises, adding District 7 is one of the GOP's main targets for the 2018 mid-term elections.
In addition to politicians, there were also speeches on voting and the broken political system.
Andy Cilek, of the Minnesota Voting Alliance, said his group is working to make Minnesota's voting system more secure.
"Our system is absolutely backward. We worry about ineligible voters being allowed to vote," Cilek said.
Cilek is concerned that if the Alternatives Procedure Bill, House File 463, is made law, it would mean bad things for the GOP.
"I think it would destroy the Republican party if that happens," Cilek said.
The bill would allow for easier absentee voting, which Cilek believes would benefit the Democrats. The bill was authored by Representative Kelly Fenton, a Republican from District 53B.
Major Alan Duff, veteran and author of the book "Fixing America's Shattered Politics," said he is concerned about the country, in part because of self-serving politicians who are more concerned about themselves than the people they represent. He feels the American traditions of freedom, liberty, security and self-sufficiency are at risk.
"It is mess," Duff said.
For those who battled the weather and attended the entire three-hour rally, it was a act of American patriotism.
"I'm a patriot. I am an American patriot. We're looking for things to get better. It can even be great again," said Dan Starry, a veteran from Sauk Rapids. He held an American flag through much of the event.
The Rauenhorsts of Olivia were also at the rally to show their support.
"Make America great again, it is slipping," said Dave Rauenhorst.
"Further support President Trump," Pat Rauenhorst added.