Portsmouth businessman and developer Jeff Albrecht got pressed into service by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump Monday night in Columbus. Albrecht, an unabashed supporter of the projects at the Piketon, Ohio facility, was backstage at the rally, waiting for an opportunity to discuss Piketon with the candidate, and that’s where the adventure began.
“It was an exciting few minutes for me,” Albrecht said. “It was one of the high spots of my life.”
The string of circumstances began when Albrecht got a call from Senator Rob Portman’s office on Sunday asking him to go to Columbus and bring Trump up to date on the Piketon plant to try to gain his support for trying to breathe life back into the plant. Albrecht traveled to Columbus with United Steelworkers of America Local 689 Representative Evan Brown.
“Our goal was to meet with Trump and promote the Piketon facility,” Albrecht said. Albrecht said, after meeting Trump, that Trump got sidetracked on logistics, concerning himself with the crowd, Secret Service and the press. While aides tried to get the two together, as the time of the rally approached, it became evident it was not going to happen.
“Finally Trump said, ‘I’ve got to get out there and talk to these people, I’ll tell you what, you just come out on the stage with me and you tell all the people in the audience and me all at the same time about the Piketon project,’” Albrecht said. “So he took us up onto the stage with him.”
Albrecht explained that when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama stayed at his hotel (now the Holiday Inn) in Portsmouth that he promised to support the loan guarantee for the plant and even sent a letter to that effect, then did not support the loan guarantee.
Albrecht told the crowd – “For seven years, Evan and I have been going to Washington and talking to politicians about saving the plant that enriched uranium. There were hundreds of jobs there, and it was the only plant in the United States that enriched uranium.” He told those in attendance the uranium plant is dead and the cleanup operation isn’t happening very fast either.
“The only thing I’ve got to say, is when these politicians make promises, which has been promised to us, that somebody holds them accountable,” Brown told the crowd at the rally.
Trump responded – “Same old stuff – politicians, all talk, no action. Won’t happen. And Hillary will be nothing more than four more years of Obama.”
“It was a great experience. It was a great opportunity to tell the world,” Albrecht said. “I have to say that last night I got texts and calls and Facebook messages from people all over the country.”
Did Trump endorse the plant?
“He shook his head and said, ‘I don’t know enough yet about it, I’ll get back to you,’” Albrecht said. “Honestly, I like his answer than Barack Obama’s. When somebody says they don’t know enough about it, so I’m not going to say, instead of coming up and saying if that’s what you want to hear, that’s what I’ll tell you.”
At the Trump rally, he suggested that he fears the general election “is going to be rigged” — an unprecedented assertion by a modern presidential candidate.
“I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest,” Trump said. He added that he has been hearing “more and more” that the election may not be contested fairly, though he did not elaborate further.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.