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The Villages
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Grassroots effort of Villagers for Trump shows what hard work can accomplish

We believe in giving credit where credit is due.

We’re also big fans of grassroots efforts. And we’re huge believers in the premise that if people come together and they aren’t afraid of hard work, just about anything is possible.

Sue Cianci, head of the Villagers for Trump Action committee, leads the way through Lake Sumter Landing in the ‘Red Wave’ golf cart during a recent rally.

If you agree, then you might want to join us in tipping our hat to the 1,000-member-strong Villagers for Trump group, which a little more than a year ago didn’t even exist.

Before we go further, we need to make one thing clear. This attaboy is in no way political. We’re not endorsing any candidates here. We’ve long held the belief that media outlets have no business telling readers or viewers who they should vote for, because we believe the political process is very personal. And we believe it should stay that way.

Conary Bullard and Stan Swies, as Donald Trump, listen to the speakers at a July Villagers for Trump rally.

But what we are doing is offering congratulations to a group that started with about 300 people in November 2017 and literally hit the ground running. They’re known for working together as a team to support President Trump. And they aren’t afraid to rock the political boat when they think it needs a good shaking now and again.

Many of you are probably familiar with this group. They’re the ones who hold highly attended golf cart rallies that take them from one town square to the next. And they’re the ones who frequently can be found standing in the blistering sun at the corner of County Road 466 and Morse Boulevard or attending meet-and-greets and other gatherings to show their support for the president.

Villagers decorate their golf carts in advance of a golf cart rally in support of Donald Trump.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that in the beginning, the group wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Trump is anything but a typical Republican and doesn’t live atop the popularity list of many old-school GOPers. So when a group formed to back him in a community known nationwide as a home for retired conservatives, let’s just say many didn’t take them seriously. And many from the old guard refused to afford them the respect they deserved.

Villagers for Trump founder David Gee

Much of the credit for that goes to the group’s founder, Villager David Gee. He got the membership excited from Day One and he’s worked hard to keep it that way. From treating monthly meetings as rallies to encouraging events like the golf cart parades to getting members in the mindset to do everything possible to re-elect the president in 2020, the Village of Sunset Pointe resident has certainly proven to be an effective leader – something any group of any size needs to be successful.

And you know what? Ten months after that first meeting, the group clearly is a force to be reckoned with. Part of the success can be contributed to the impressive list of speakers they’ve brought in – GOP political leaders and candidates at many levels of government have made it a point to be on the group’s agenda. Another critical piece is visibility in the community through everything from sporting Villagers for Trump shirts to those golf cart parades we mentioned earlier. And the other key piece – members hold to their beliefs and aren’t afraid to share them or defend them.

Along those lines, three recent events clearly show how far this group has come in a very short period of time. First, when a snafu of some sort erupted in mid-July between The Villages Republican Club and Trump-backed GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis over bringing Donald Trump Jr. to The Villages, the eventual Republican nominee instead took his event to Orlando.

But his camp quickly agreed to send free buses and tickets to The Villages so supporters here could attend the rally. Being a member of Villagers for Trump wasn’t a prerequisite for getting the free tickets, but you can be rest assured the group’s influence was the driving force behind the move.

A crowd of close to 400 people turned out in late July at the Laurel Manor Recreation Center to hear GOP gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis speak.

Second, Villagers for Trump staged a candidate forum at the end of July that was headlined by DeSantis. The event took place on the eve of a rally in Tampa where DeSantis would be joining the president onstage in front of a huge crowd of Trump supporters. But that didn’t stop DeSantis from making time to visit the Villagers for Trump event with its overflow crowd at the Laurel Manor Recreation Center.

That night, DeSantis delivered a rousing speech that had the cheering crowd – many of whom were planning to make the trip to the Tampa rally the next morning – on its feet as he talked about everything from changing the face of the liberal Florida Supreme Court to battling illegal immigration to making sure no sanctuary cities ever exist in the Sunshine State.

Gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis, who has been endorsed by President Trump, speaks during a July rally at the Laurel Manor Recreation Center.

At the end of the event, Gee told DeSantis he had the endorsement of Villagers for Trump and they would do whatever possible to help him get elected as Florida’s next governor. And a short time later backstage, he was heaping praise on the group and the entire community.

“This is a great place to be, particularly for a Republican” he said, noting that he had visited our community in the past. “There’s probably not any other place you could get hundreds of people to show up on a normal night.”

Barb Besecker, left, and Carole Firlie show their support for Congressman Ron DeSantis’ bid to become Florida’s next governor before a golf cart rally earlier this month.
Adam Putnam

Then came the Primary Election. GOP challenger Adam Putnam, who is serving as Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, clearly believed he had a strong foothold in the community. He carried the backing of The Villages Developer. And he made an inordinate amount of stops here during his campaign.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the polls. We quickly learned that DeSantis had established himself as the candidate of choice in The Villages. And many realized that it probably wouldn’t have been possible without the countless hours Villagers for Trump members put into helping him gain the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Villagers for Trump leaders Sue Cianci, Jim Volpe and Denise Neal prepare for a recent golf cart parade through Lake Sumter Landing and Spanish Springs Town Square.

In case you’re wondering just how successful DeSantis was here, he carried 24 of 26 precincts in Sumter County, which included every single Villages precinct. And the vote wasn’t even close, with the percentage margin between DeSantis and Developer-backed Putnam ranging from 18 to 33 percent at the 17 Villages precincts.

Toss in the fact that the former Navy lawyer captured 53.11 percent of the vote in Lake County and 53.16 in Marion County, and we are quite comfortable in saying that Villagers for Trump has established itself as a major player in the political scene here.

Sherry Canger and her 7-year-old grandson, Mason, are lined up and ready for a recent Villagers for Trump golf cart parade.

That said, we once again applaud the grassroots effort that led to the birth of this group. Its members are living proof that people who live in the greatest country in the world really can make a huge difference at all levels of government if they’re willing to put in the hard work and stand pat on their beliefs.

Tristan Colby, left, and Nick Burtis, grandsons of Villagers for Trump board member Denise Neal, stand ready to take their place in line near the front of a recent golf cart parade.

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