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Supporters, Mississippi governor rally in Rowan for Dan Forest

SALISBURY — More than 200 people attended a rally for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest at the Rowan County Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon.

Forest, who is running for governor against incumbent Democrat Roy Cooper, hosted the rally in Salisbury in an effort to shore up support in a deep red county. 

“We’ve had strong support in the Rowan County area,” said Andrew Dunn, a Forest campaign spokesperson. “We’ve been here multiple times in the past year and we always have a great show of support here. We’ve been campaigning all over the state. Just this month we’ve been in eastern North Carolina, western North Carolina and today we’re in the Piedmont.”

The rally was also attended by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who was one of a few people to take the stage to voice support for Forest. Reeves discussed the way Mississippi has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, contrasting it with the way that Cooper has handled it in North Carolina.

“You’ve seen the type of policies that your incumbent governor has enacted,” Reeves said to the crowd. “You’ve seen what it’s done to your economy. You’ve seen what it’s done to your unemployment rate. You’ve seen what it’s done to your kids. You’ve seen what it’s done to your grandkids. I don’t know if there’s an election in America where the contrast between the shutdown favored by the incumbent and the freedom favored by Dan Forest could be any more stark.”

Dan Forest gives a speech to a packed house on Sunday evening, outlining what he would do if elected governor. Ben Stansell/Salisbury Post

Criticizing the way Cooper has handled the coronavirus pandemic was a rally staple. During his speech, Forest spent time explaining how he would manage the state differently if he is elected on Nov. 3.

“I will never tell a business owner in North Carolina that their business is non-essential,” Forest told the crowd. “I will never tell a business owner that they have to close their business and they can’t provide food for their family and they can’t put a roof over their head.”

Rally attendee Tim Rupp said those words were exactly what he wanted to hear. Rupp has been a longtime supporter of Forest and traveled to Rowan County from Wake Forest to hear him speak.

“I own my own business, so I love the fact that he will consider all businesses essential businesses,” Rupp said.

The two political rivals, Cooper and Forest, have taken shots at each other over how the other has been campaigning. Cooper has refused to hold in-person rallies, choosing to host events virtually due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19. Forest has continued to hold campaign events in person, most of which have been attended by people not wearing masks. While gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outside under Cooper’s phase two executive order, Forest has cited the First Amendment exemption in Cooper’s orders as to why he is able to host larger gatherings inside.

Forest didn’t make himself available for questions, and Dunn also referred to the First Amendment exemption. 

The majority of people who attended the Forest rally on Sunday did not wear masks. But the campaign placed a thermal imaging camera at the front door that it said detected temperatures of 100.4 degrees or above. If someone’s temperature was recorded as being above that threshold, the machine would sound an alarm, said John White, who works for the technology company Results Streaming Solutions, located in Terrell.

“We’ve developed the technology. It’s proprietary. You won’t see anything like this,” White said.

John White watches as people walk past the thermal camera that they set up at the front door of the rally. Ben Stansell/Salisbury Post

After rally attendees walked through the camera’s line of sight, they were given a sticker indicating that they had been “pulsed.” No one was turned away from the event as a result of registering at too high of a temperature, White said.

After the event concluded, Forest shook hands and posed for pictures with his supporters. Forest plans to continuing holding rallies as the race between him and Cooper continuing.

Dunn said he believes that Forest will meet with President Donald Trump when the president visits the state this week for the Republican National Convention. Trump publicly endorsed Forest for governor in early July.

“President Trump has been a strong supporter of Dan Forest and, likewise, Dan Forest has been a strong supporter of President Trump,” Dunn said.

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