Trump ‘Welcome Anytime’ Says Wildwood Mayor After 15,000 Come for Rally
WILDWOOD — President Donald Trump is "welcome back anytime," according to the city's Democratic mayor after Tuesday's political rally translated to a couple days of brisk business in the tourism off-season.
Mayor Pete Byron estimated the turnout at about 15,000 people — a number that seemed about right to City Commissioner Steve Mikulski, who owns the Key West Cafe restaurant on Pacific Avenue.
The turnout was far less than the 175,000 ticket requests that had been made in the weeks leading up to the rally. The Wildwoods Convention Center holds 7,500 people. A massive overflow crowd greeted Trump on his way to the center and watched his speech on a screen outside the venue.
Byron and Mikulski said it’ll be a while before an estimate of potential overall expenses for Trump’s re-election rally can be hammered out.
“We will be reviewing info and should have numbers in about 30 days,” City Administrator Carl Groon said in an email to the Townsquare News Network on Wednesday.
Some of the Democratic challengers to U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who joined Trump at the event, expected the expenses to stack up.
Amy Kennedy cited an October report noting that the Trump campaign had not reimbursed six cities following presidential rallies.
“The taxpayers of Wildwood shouldn’t be forced to pay up for a political rally for Van Drew, and it’s outrageous that their supposed representative would allow that to happen," Kennedy said Thursday in a written statement. "Jeff Van Drew abandoned the voters of his district first when he decided to pledge his ‘undying support’ for Donald Trump, and again when he made them (literally) pay for that decision."
Another potential Democratic challenger, Brigid Harrison, said the rally "clearly resulted in labor and costs for Wildwood, Cape May, and the 2nd District, and once again, we see Van Drew self-interest taking the top priority."
City officials, however, seemed to be less concerned about being stiffed.
Mikulski said with the crowd of "roughly 12,000 to 15,000" people in town on a winter Tuesday, business was more like a summer Saturday during a holiday weekend.
Byron said the event site was pretty much cleaned up by Monday afternoon, also noting the surrounding streets still had a bit of cleaning up to be done.
A post on the Wildwoods, New Jersey tourism Facebook page said that blankets and chairs that were left behind were donated to local charities.
Kennedy, Harrison and another Democratic primary candidate, Will Cunningham, joined a counter-rally Tuesday held by Cape May County Indivisible.
Organizers of the counter-rally also considered Tuesday to be a success, saying on the group's Facebook page: "The energy of our protest brought us to tears."