Vice-Presidential Nominee Mike Pence Buffs Donald Trump's Image at Mesa Megachurch

Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence at a campaign event in Mesa on September 22, 2016.
Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence at a campaign event in Mesa on September 22, 2016.
Elizabeth Stuart

Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence largely sidestepped politics at a low-key question-and-answer session at a Mesa megachurch on Thursday, choosing instead to focus on more personal matters.

Before a crowd of about 900 people at Living Word Bible Church, the Indiana governor described Republican running mate Donald Trump as a faith-oriented family man. The audience responded by waving "Make America Great Again!" signs and punctuating Pence's speech with "amens."

"All you need to know about Donald Trump is he loves his family and he loves this country," Pence said. "That's something we have in common."

This was Pence's third visit to Arizona since he agreed in July to accept the nomination for vice president. While Arizona typically swings Republican, recent polls suggest the pair's race against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and running mate, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, could be tight in the Grand Canyon State.

Pence emphasized that both he and Trump are descended from immigrants and, he said, products of the "American dream."

"Donald Trump and I were raised to believe, 'To whom much is given, much will be required,'" Pence said. "For me, that was a call to public service; for him, that was the kid from Queens decided to go to Manhattan Island and build the big buildings to the sky."

The first time he met Trump, Pence said, he was impressed by how much he cared for the people around him. Trump is the kind of leader, he said, who can "inspire the men and women around them, encourage them, strengthen them, and make it possible for them to achieve great things.

"That's why he's been the success he's been," Pence said. 

Supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence responded passionately to Pence's campaign stop at Living Word Bible Church in Mesa September 22. 2016.
Supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence responded passionately to Pence's campaign stop at Living Word Bible Church in Mesa September 22. 2016.
Elizabeth Stuart

If elected, Pence promised, he and Trump would "work our hearts out every day" to combat corruption and bring the country "back to God." The strength of the nation is "in her pulpits," Pence said, arguing that some of its most influential leaders, including Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr., were produced by communities of faith.

Pence committed to repeal President Barack Obama's executive orders softening immigration-law enforcement, to demolish the Affordable Care Act, and to "send Roe v. Wade to the grave." 

"I'm old enough to remember in the last Clinton administration, America had a debate over whether character matters to the presidency," he said. "We don't have to have that debate again. Donald Trump will bring the highest level of integrity to the highest office in the land." 

Vice-Presidential Nominee Mike Pence Buffs Donald Trump's Image at Mesa Megachurch
Elizabeth Stuart
Vice-Presidential Nominee Mike Pence Buffs Donald Trump's Image at Mesa Megachurch
Elizabeth Stuart

Earlier in the day, during a press conference at Arizona Democratic Party Headquarters, a group of community leaders including State Representative Reginald Bolding and Lawrence Robinson, a governing board member for the Roosevelt Elementary School District, painted a very different picture of the Trump-Pence ticket.

Robinson called the pair's policies "prejudiced" against minorities, including the African-American, Latino, LGBT, and disabled communities. 

Trump is pushing to expand New York's controversial "Stop and Frisk" program, which allows police to temporarily detain and pat down suspicious-looking citizens. A federal judge ruled in 2013 that it unlawfully targeted blacks and Latinos, although it was not banned outright.

Pence, meanwhile, has been advocating to divert tax dollars to conversion therapy, a psychological or spiritual counseling method designed to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual that many believe to be harmful. 

"We haven't forgotten about what they really stand for," Robinson said. "Plain bigotry." 

Vice-Presidential Nominee Mike Pence Buffs Donald Trump's Image at Mesa Megachurch
Elizabeth Stuart
Vice-Presidential Nominee Mike Pence Buffs Donald Trump's Image at Mesa Megachurch
Elizabeth Stuart

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