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A Republican strategist and MAGA artist: 2020 Washington state perspectives

As the 2020 election approaches, KUOW is asking Washington state voters what they're thinking. In this first story from the series, we check in with two Republicans.

To Randy Pepple of Woodinville, President Trump is a "demagogue."

But to Debbi LerMond of Leavenworth, he is a "hero ... to fight the injustices of the most vulnerable in society."

Both are Republicans -- but that doesn't mean much when it comes to how they feel about the president and the issues they care about as they look to the 2020 November election.

Randy Pepple: "Trump isn't a Republican"

Randy Pepple: A Republican strategist who has worked on campaigns in Washington state, including former Attorney General Rob McKenna's gubernatorial run.

Issues/perspective: Pepple talks about the election from a strategist's perspective, and is interested in how the party succeeds long term.

Pepple says he has been a Republican since he was in high school.

"I have worked for only Republican candidates since I handed out buttons for Scoop Jackson in 1972," he said. "So my Republicanism hasn’t changed over time.

"Donald Trump isn’t a Republican. He’s a demagogue. And this particular time, he was able to take advantage of the nomination process in 2016 and get nominated. But he’s no more a Republican than Joe Biden is a Republican."

Pepple won't make predictions for the November election, although he said he can imagine a scenario similar to 2016, when Trump lost the popular vote, but won through the electoral college.

“The same dynamics that got Donald Trump elected in 2016 are present today,” Pepple said. “There is still a large segment of the population in key electoral states that are not satisfied with either political party."

He continued: "That tends to be white, non-college educated men," he said. "They populate states that are important in presidential contests, but they haven’t moved a lot since 2016. You also have a Democratic candidate who is not overly popular with the Democrats, with their own party.”

The main difference between 2016 and 2020, Pepple said, is that previously Donald Trump was a reality TV show star with no record. Now, he's a president with a record.

“The build-a-wall people … he could point to sections of the wall. That base, he tends to," Pepple said. "He tends to his evangelical base the same way with the appointment of Supreme Court justices. He has slices of achievements he can pitch to those bases ... He has maintained that same base since he secured the Republican nomination … those people aren’t changing their minds.”

“Even though I’m not one of them, I do not ignore the fact that there are a lot of people out there who really like what he’s doing. And they’re not racist and they’re not diminished by any of the attacks the Democrats particularly like to launch at them," Pepple said.

"They just see a guy who is telling it like it is and trying to get things done. They don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the day-to-day … They just see some things happening they like, so they support him.

"They didn’t see that under Barack Obama and didn’t see it under George W. Bush either."

Pepple said he worries about the Republican party's long-term standing.

“Where is the Republican Party in four years?" he said. "How do we continue to compete for votes in a state like Washington after Trump? Because right now, Trump is toxic from the perspective of most people. Their opinions are fixed and they are not moving."

Debbi LerMond: "Against All Odds"

Debbie LerMond: A Washington artist who makes horse sculptures in central Washington.

Issues/perspective: Trump is tough, unlike politicians, and has defeated repeated attacks from Democrats, Marxists, and RINOs ("Republican in name only").

Debbi LerMond said she admires Donald Trump today even more than she did when she promoted him in 2016.

“If President Trump's first term could be summed up in a movie title, I would say it was, ‘Against All Odds,'" she said.

"President Trump has overcome immense resistance from the Democrats/Socialist/Marxists in America to make our country a better place for people to reach their goals. He has especially made great progress for minority communities with criminal justice reform and Opportunity Zones and he is building the wall!"

LerMond is also pleased with Trump's Conservative appointments to the Supreme Court.

"Even with all of the negative fake news, fake impeachment, fake Russian collusion hoax, President Trump has been undeterred in his goal to Drain the Swamp which is Washington D.C.,” she said.

She said Trump earns an A for his first term, and an A+ for effort since he receives so much push back from Democrats, “RINOs,” and people with a "Marxist agenda." She said she sees a president who does not take a paycheck and is still hated, even by members of his own party.

"This is what I love about our president. He's not wishy-washy, and he doesn't back down or cower like so many spineless Republicans who have no convictions nor backbones!”

LerMond spoke with KUOWshortly after the 2016 election, and commented that she felt Trump is often misunderstood. That view holds. She noted that Trump is from Queens, New York; where people are "fighters," she said. That tone has been misrepresented by Democrats, she says, who misquote the president or “just out and lie about something they thought he might say or do.”

“This is deceptive practice at its worst, in my opinion. All you have to do is read, ‘The Art of the Deal,’ and you will have a better understanding of how President Trump thinks. Get to know him like my husband and I did to appreciate where he came from.”

The issues she cares about haven't changed much from the 2016 election either, specifically the wall that Trump has hyped ever since his first presidential campaign.

“I am glad that President Trump has over 200 miles of the border wall completed. He has fought an uphill battle his entire presidency to even get the funding to make it happen. When you understand that President Trump wanted the border wall to stop human trafficking and illegal drug smuggling, you would think that Congress would have been 100% for it. Funny how that works though. The Democrats and RINOs wanted a border wall until President Trump wanted one.”

Another thing that hasn't changed since the last election is thereaction she gets as a Trump supporter.

"When they flip me off, I just smile, wave and say, ‘Have a nice day!’ I expect to get flipped off or have F-bombs hurled at me from young people who never learned manners or respect, but I find it troubling when an 80+ woman flips me off just because I support President Trump.

"I've never seen so much opposition for a president in my entire life. But I believe it's because he's not part of ‘The Club.’ He is an outsider willing to be the ‘bull in the china shop' to dismantle the entrenched career bureaucrats who get rich lining their pockets with special interest lobbyists money.”

/ Courtesy of Randy Pepple
Courtesy of Randy Pepple
Debbi LerMond holds a sign promoting Donald Trump for president.
/ Courtesy of Debbi LerMond
Courtesy of Debbi LerMond
Debbi LerMond holds a sign promoting Donald Trump for president.

Copyright 2020 KUOW