CLAREMONT — Nine weeks following the 2020 presidential election, the Sullivan County Republicans will remove their Trump banner from their building in downtown Claremont.
In an interview with The Eagle Times on Friday, Claremont Rep. Walt Stapleton, R-District 5, said the party will take down the Trump banner on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 10 a.m., sooner than initially planned.
Stapleton said their group kept up the banner to express solidarity and support for President Donald J. Trump during his challenge to the Nov. 3 election. The group originally planned to keep the banner up until Inauguration Day on Wednesday, Jan. 20. But with the official certification of the Electoral College ballots by Congress on Wednesday, and Trump’s own pledge to support an orderly transition to Joe Biden’s presidency, the Sullivan County Republicans decided to expedite the removal.
“We thought it was time enough, given the developments and the lack of success with [Trump’s] efforts so far,” Stapleton said.
The banner, which has hung from the Moody Building at 58 Opera House Square, in the center of Claremont’s historic district, has drawn numerous concerns and complaints in the weeks following the election, according to Stapleton. City officials had expressed concerns about the sign’s longevity and the building landlord had received several phone calls from people expressing criticism and, in some cases, threats of retaliation if the sign remained.
Stapleton received some calls as well.
“One yesterday was a gentleman who identified himself and we had a nice conversation,” said Stapleton, adding that he notified the caller that the removal was already scheduled.
In other cases, the callers would refuse to give their name, which led Stapleton to end the conversation.
“And my only reason is that I like to know who I am talking to and have that personal understanding when we’re having an exchange,” Stapleton said. “I think that is professional and respectful.”
Stapleton said he remains unchanged in his support of Trump’s presidency, which “achieved many good outcomes despite the negative portrayal by many media outlets.”
“If you read the White House briefs, and the critics and supporters of those briefs on a daily basis, you would see that he was a busy guy and doing things that were positive for our country,” Stapleton said.
Though Stapleton is no fan of Trump’s behavioral style, which Stapleton described as “blusterial, braggaderial and bloviating” and a detriment to Trump’s rapport with colleagues, the media and the public.
“We weren’t happy with that,” Stapleton said. “We were even embarrassed. But we were able to look beyond the underlying work that was done and, more importantly, the underlying values representing our constitutional conservative, moral and cultural values. He had those within him, even if he didn’t always express them well or sometimes got off on a tangent.”
The riotous incidents on Wednesday inside the U.S. Capitol — which left five people dead, including one police officer, and many injuries and arrests — does not reflect Trump supporters, according to Stapleton.
“I knew people who were down there,” Stapleton said. “And out of what I believe was 800,000 people, or more, 95-98% of those were regular conservative, respectful citizens wanting to make a difference through a demonstration.”
While the party’s Trump banner is leaving the Moody Building, the Sullivan County Republicans plan to stay, Stapleton said.
The Sullivan County Republicans plan to use their street-level space, which they used as a campaign office for the November elections, as an informational drop-in center where citizens can learn about the history, philosophy and values of the Republican party.
Stapleton said the group aims to open the space at least one day per week, which will be staffed by volunteers. The office will house a variety of historical memorabilia, periodicals and other informational resources.
“We want people to come in and see our platform,” Stapleton said. “We want to have dialogue with Democrats and Independents as well.”
For Stapleton, respectful dialogue and communication are as important values as those that shape his political and moral beliefs.
“During the course of people protesting our sign, I welcomed the dialogue,” Stapleton said. “It was a good way to keep that personal connection, because we are neighbors. We are going to respect, help and stand by one another, even with differing opinions.”
The Sullivan County Republicans will still keep their banner bearing their name on the Moody Building as a temporary signage, Stapleton said. The group is currently applying for a signage exemption to put up a glass window sign at their office, which must be approved by the Claremont Historical District.