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Volunteers Open Unofficial Trump Campaign Headquarters In Louisville

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Judy Johnston stood in a small office in a Fern Creek shopping center on Saturday with two Donald Trump campaign yard signs tucked beneath her arm. Her pink fingernail polish popped against the dark blue letters on the sign.

She glanced at her hand and then shook it away. Her nails needed a touch-up.

“I have a lady who does my nails that’s from Vietnam,” she said.

Johnston is a staunch Trump supporter. On Saturday, a group of volunteers opened an office in Fern Creek that'll serve as an unofficial campaign hub for efforts to bolster support for Trump in Louisville.

The Republican presidential nominee has been sliding of late, with controversial remarks about everything from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to the family of a fallen U.S. soldier catching up to him in the polls.

But the trouble that seems to follow Trump everywhere in this campaign didn't make an appearance at the opening on Saturday.

Johnston was among some three dozen supporters who joined in the grand opening. The small office is still without working phones and running water. Photos of Trump decorate the walls, along with snapshots of former President Ronald Reagan and Sen. Mitch McConnell as well as swag from various Republican campaigns, including those of Sen. Rand Paul and former Sen. Bob Dole.

Johnston and her husband are retired. She made a career as a nurse, he worked at General Electric. She said she sees Trump as a candidate who can restore what she considers "American values." She called him a "loving man" who puts families first and won't push away Christians.

Johnston said she'll plant the two signs in the front yard of her Jeffersontown home. There aren't many campaign signs in her neighborhood, she said, and she's looking to start a conversation.

The campaign office is not officially a part of the Trump campaign, said Jeff Klusmeier, who is the primary financier of the small space and organizer of the group Young Professionals for Trump. He said the space would be a hub for volunteers, who are set to begin canvassing southwest Louisville in earnest this week.

The Republican nominee's overbearing personality can tarnish his appeal to voters, Klusmeier said. But some of his more extreme positions have drawn their share of opponents, too.

Take Trump's tough immigration stance. He's called for "extreme vetting" of immigrants and a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. He's also pledged to build a wall  along the southern border with Mexico. His positions have led some to call him a racist and a bigot.

Klusmeier said the group would seek to "educate people on what his true agenda is," with a focus on Trump's economic policy.

Still, it's Trump's personality that appeals to many people who gathered here to support him this weekend.

"He tells you what he thinks, he's not holding anything back," said Derek Combs, who drove from Lexington to help open the office. Combs said Trump's attitude could be a "refreshing change" for American politics.

Trump is falling behind Clinton in recent polls. The widening gap between the two candidates — and a recent changeup in campaign leadership — may have led Trump to show some remorse for his past remarks.

Still, some supporters remain unfazed by Trump's controversial rhetoric.

"I don't think it matters what's being said or how it's being said," said Stuart Victor of Frankfort.

Victor, like many who support Trump, blamed media misrepresentation for the outrage surrounding the Republican nominee.

Linda Greenwell, of Taylorsville, agreed.

"I don't believe a lot of what the press says, because they tell you what they want you to know," she said.

And some believe Trump will unite people, despite his calls for mass deportation of some 11 million undocumented immigrants.

When asked about the impact such policies could have on families, Johnston scoffed at the notion Trump's actions could break family bonds. She said she thinks of her nail technician.

"They are the kind of people I want to come in here," she said. "They have come in, they have blended in, they are working to make their dream come true, they are supporting their families."

Johnston is yet to discuss her political leanings during a salon visit, but she said she plans to. In fact, she was looking to buy a campaign button for everyday wear, including trips for nail touch-ups.

"Just to start a conversation," she said.

While the grand opening celebration wore on, with people chatting and cans of Busch beer on ice in coolers, Evan Sanchez was at work a few doors down at El Tenampa, a bar and restaurant.

Sanchez, 25, said he'd dismiss the office down the sidewalk just as he dismisses Trump. He wished Trump the best of luck but was quick to say he won't be voting for the Republican candidate. The reason? He said Trump may not be a racist, but he sure sounds like one.

"He shouldn't have came out the way he came out," Sanchez said of Trump.

Sanchez said he is a U.S. citizen whose family is from Mexico. He's privy to Trump's stance on immigration and his call to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

"Everybody comes in underneath," he said. "A wall doesn't make no difference."

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.