When she took the microphone Thursday night and started to speak, the crowd of nearly 500 President Donald Trump supporters — most of which were women — went silent. And that, Tracey Lore said, was bad.
New Jersey Women for Trump, the group Lore co-founded with Priscilla Confrey, is all about making noise.
“One of the mantras we find ourselves repeating often is, ‘Silent No More,’” Lore told the audience. “Let them hear your voice. Use your voice. Be proud and confident that your pro-Trump message is right and just and patriotic.
“It’s time for all of us to get loud and effective in our support of President Trump. We must aspire to inspire others to do the same. Perhaps our biggest challenge is to convince and convert someone else to support our great president. Tonight, I challenge all of you: Go forth and be confident, be loud, be proud and remember: Silent No More.”
The crowd, seated in the main event room at the Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale, rose to its feet — the first of many standing ovations throughout a night that was scheduled to feature more than a half-dozen speakers.
Confrey was thrilled.
It was another example of how the event — which she began planning at the end of August — exceeded her expectations.
Tickets, priced from $125 to $400, sold out by Wednesday. The calls, Confrey said, didn’t stop. She added another 20 seats Thursday — bringing the total to 450.
Confrey said it represented a terrific start. One she hopes to build on. And she said she knows it could have been much higher. After all, there was no advertising. The event grew by word of mouth and a little-known Facebook page that is growing daily.
“We get 100 people a day signing up,” she said.
The crowd was about 80% women — and approximately 10% minority. Here’s a look at some of the folks who were there.
Kim Barsuss of Bedminster and her mother, Mary Ellen Lewis of Brick, both described themselves as huge Trump supporters.
The only difference? How much they tell that to others.
Barsuss said she can’t control it.
“I do feel like I need to tone down my support, but I don’t,” she said.
Her mother does.
“I’m afraid to speak up,” she said. “I’m afraid my car might get vandalized.”
Both don’t understand why their view of Trump isn’t more widely accepted and embraced.
“He’s doing great for this country,” Barsuss said. “He comes across poorly at times. But, in his core, he’s doing what’s right for America. In his heart, he makes the right decisions and does the right things for the United States.”
Barsuss does not feel Trump is disrespectful to women or ethnic groups.
“I can see how people perceive it that way,” she said. “I understand that, but if you look beyond it, you can see he’s not that way. You look at the results. And what he’s doing. It’s total opposite of what he’s coming across as.
“I think, out of everyone, he’s the one that actually gives women the most opportunities. He’s the biggest advocate for women. He just wants was best for the country and what’s best for business.”
Lewis agrees. She began watching Trump on “The Apprentice” and said she was hooked then.
“I thought he was just the best leader I’ve ever seen,” she said. “When everyone called him a racist, I said, ‘There’s no way this guy is a racist.’ I don’t feel that way at all. Quite the opposite.
“What he’s done with the stock market. What he did in getting this terrorist. Everything he does just makes sense. And I like his personality. I know a lot of people don’t, but that’s what I like, because he doesn’t hold back. He is so transparent. He lets everyone know what’s going on. I like that.”
Trump’s personality doesn’t bother Kristine Rickert, Susan Klein or Connie Herkenback, either. The sisters, in fact, all flew in from Illinois for the event.
“We love everything that he’s doing,” Rickert said. “I was not a Trump fan at first, but he’s exceeded my expectations. He is probably the best leader I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”
Rickert, who worked for 25 years at Pitney Bowes, a global tech company, before starting a small business of her own during retirement, said she knows a thing or two about how business gets done — and how those who do it act.
Trump anti-women? No way, she said.
“I think the mainstream media plays on that because of all the feminist bullshit,” she said. “But I don’t think Trump has ever said anything that any man wouldn’t say behind closed doors. I’ve been in business for a long time and know how men talk. And I know how women talk. So, I don’t know that he’s ever offended me or women in general.”
The sisters, who attended the Trump rally in Washington, D.C., on the Fourth of July, said they are hoping to start an Illinois Women for Trump organization and hold an event on their own. It’s one of the reasons they came to New Jersey.
And it’s not a surprise to Alice Butler-Smith, the founder of Virginia Women for Trump, who helps other states start their own chapters.
Butler-Smith started the idea after hearing Trump speak in 2015, when she became convinced that he was the right person to lead the country. One who would need help.
“I knew he would need the women’s vote — and they immediately started this anti-women thing about him,” she said. “The first reason I started this was because I had to debunk this myth. Another is because I wanted to bring women of all ethnic backgrounds together as Americans. The third reason is to align our spirituality without politics.
“We cannot take God out of it. It’s freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. If we’re going to remain one nation under God, then God has to be in everything we do. We have to have God’s guidance.”
The room was filled with nearly a dozen tables selling Trump products or pushing Trump ideals. There even was a petition to recall Gov. Phil Murphy.
Abbey Wigton, 27, was there representing Turning Point USA.
While most of the audience skewed older, Wigton was there because of her work with the next generation — she serves as the Atlantic Region rep, overseeing schools in New Jersey and Philadelphia, among other places.
Wigton, a 2016 graduate of Central Florida University, feels more young people support Trump than most realize.
“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of civil discussions.”
And some uncivil ones.
“I’ve had a couple of people flip my table and spit on me,” she said.
But Wigton said she believes in what she’s doing.
“I would say our organization is doing a good job at getting campus culture back to a center position,” she said.
Wigton admits she does not agree with everything Trump believes in or says.
“Some of his policies, I’m not supportive of,” she said. “And some of his rhetoric is very New Yorker of him. I go to New York all the time, and they all talk like that. They’re all in your face. I think that’s just a regional difference, and a lot of people on the West Coast don’t understand that.”
Wigton said she’s signed up 150 students at Rutgers University during this past semester, putting them on a list to get more information and notices about events. And she said that’s nothing compared to Temple University in Philadelphia, where she’s registered 750.
“There’s more support out there than people realize,” she said.
Fashion designer Andre Soriano thinks there’s more hidden support in other areas — including Hollywood.
Soriano, who created the now-famous “Make America Great Again” dress collection, said he’s trying to use his fashion sense to bring common sense to Hollywood elites and others.
“The reason why I did the dress was because, after President Trump won, there was so much divisiveness and hate among celebrities in America, which is sad,” he said. “I didn’t like that there was so much hate. They should be icons and there should be a platform of love and unity in this great nation. It’s sad what’s happening.”
Soriano, who said he came to the U.S. in 1986 to escape turmoil in his native Philippines, said he feels he represents the American Dream.
His dream now is to create a “Glam the Vote” movement, similar to the Rock the Vote movement of the 1980s and ’90s. Soriano wants to bring peace — and fashion — to the process.
“America has given me the platform to be a fashion designer: Why can’t you be fashionable and believe in the constitution and style — just like in Paris and London and Tokyo?” he said. “Just because we’re conservative doesn’t mean that we’re not glamorous.”
Michael Kyle, his business manager, said Soriano’s efforts have come from the urging of others.
“We were approached by a lot of conservative women that were pro-Trump, but felt threatened when they went out with anything that was MAGA-oriented,” he said. “We felt fashion was a way to bond conservative men and women together without having that fear. We can’t you be conservative, fashionable, forward-thinking and part of the democracy?”
Trump has plenty of supporters.
Just ask Diane Ventura of Pennsylvania. She — along with Renata Weiss of New York and Dion Cini of Pennsylvania — was there selling items to support Operation Flag Drop and Operation Towel Drop.
“All the proceeds go to Gold Star families,” Cini said.
And the proceeds are rising.
Ventura, who followed the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina in 2016, said interest is as high as it’s ever been.
“I think there’s a much stronger following for the president now than there was four years ago,” she said. “It’s incredible. I know his support is growing, because everybody wants Trump stuff. People love him.”
And not just him.
One of the offerings at the table was a flag pushing Ivanka Trump for president in 2024.
“You’ll be seeing that a lot more,” Ventura said. “She’ll be our first female president.”
When asked why most reports say Trump’s support is dropping, Ventura said she doesn’t believe most reports.
“I don’t have a TV in my house,” she said. “That’s not facts. That’s entertainment.”
Facts are facts. And Confrey told the audience the facts say support for Trump among women in New Jersey is growing.
“We are so excited to see where the next year takes us,” she said. “It is our belief that we can truly make a difference here in New Jersey by bringing more people to join this amazing force we have going on. People are truly starting to notice that Trump supporters are out there in big numbers. They have just been silent. And they’ve been sidelined and ignored by the media.
“We’re all about to change all that. We will continue to speak loudly and proudly about our great president. And we will do whatever we can to ensure his re-election in 2020.”
Her Facebook group has more than 7,000 members — and some from each county in the state. Confrey said more and more New Jersey women are seeing what she sees.
“I think he really truly cares about this country,” she said. “And if you can’t see good things are happening — not everything’s perfect — but if you can’t see how people are happier and just feel more free and with a little more money in their pocket and feeling like they’re not going to lose the country, I don’t know what to say. He’s giving us hope.”
Confrey, a retired banker who now serves as Eucharistic minister in Spring Lake, said she’s doing all she can for Trump for the good of the country and her two children.
“I don’t want this country to go socialist,” she said. “I have young kids and I want to keep it the America that I know, which means to be inclusive of everybody, but just not to go socialist. This is about my love for my country and my love for President Trump. I just think he’s not political, not Republican or Democrat, he’s a businessman. He’s not a typical politician.”
More than anything, Confrey said, Trump is human.
“We’re all flawed,” she said.