US Presidential Election: Trump and Clinton supporters’ tensions rise ahead of final debate

As candidates prepare for the final US presidential debate in Nevada, emotions are running high in the battleground state. It’s 11:00am and Alma Zamarin is tired.

The Philippines-born mother of two is a food server for the room service department at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas and finished her overnight shift at 6:00am.

“For the co-workers we are like a family working there, we are friends to each other,” she says.

But her feelings towards the man who owns 50 per cent of the hotel she works in — Donald Trump — are very different.

“I want to tell him that he is not treating us fair,” she says.

She and hundreds of other workers at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas spent several years fighting to join a union so they could negotiate better conditions and have their wages raised — in Ms Zamarin’s case from $10 an hour to $13 an hour.

US voter Alma Zamarin speaks to ABC
Las Vegas Trump Hotel worker Alma Zamarin US voter Alma Zamarin speaks to ABC

They won a vote to unionise last December but say their bosses are refusing to negotiate new contracts.

“[Donald Trump] says that he is the best negotiator but we have been looking for him and he is running away all the time,” says Geoconda Arguello-Kline, from the Culinary Workers Union.

Thousands of media outlets from across the globe are in Las Vegas this week for the third presidential debate.

Ms Zamarin and her colleagues are making the most of it — they are planning a picket line outside the Trump Hotel on the morning of the debate and the Culinary Workers Union, which represents them, is planning to surround the premises with a wall of taco trucks.

They are making signs that read #BoycottTrump and are calling on people around the world to refuse to stay at his resorts or buy any Trump-branded products until the workers’ wages are raised.

“He says that he wants to make America great again — so he should start on us,” Ms Zamarin says.

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Death threats, harassment as campaign heats up

Protesters rally against Republican Donald Trump in Las Vegas
Donald Trump’s rally in Las Vegas, picketed by Clinton supporters. (AP: John Locher)

Elsewhere in Las Vegas, things have gotten ugly for Trump supporter Irma Aguirre.

Earlier this month Mr Trump visited her Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas’ arts district to meet with her and other Hispanic business leaders.

“We discussed things like the economy, what small businesses face, how we can access more capital,” she says.

She had expected there would be protesters outside her restaurant when Mr Trump visited — and she was right — but it was what happened after that she found most disturbing and disappointing.

Irma Aguirre
Trump supporter Irma Aguirre says she has been harassed after hosting him at her restaurant (ABC)

“We’ve received death threats, our staff has been harassed, I’m constantly being harassed via social media,” she says.

Community activist Jose Macias was protesting outside Ms Aguirre’s restaurant when Mr Trump visited and afterwards called for Latinos to boycott the businesses of those at the meeting.

“How can a Latino business support a candidate that since the beginning of his campaign has attacked Mexicans, has degraded women, has attacked immigrants?” Mr Macias says.

Ms Aguirre says she knows Mr Trump is divisive but believes the media has misrepresented his comments on immigration and the recent storm over his alleged treatment of women doesn’t phase her.

Donald Trump supporters clash in Las Vegas
Trump supporter Mathew Burgart faces off with Hillary Clinton backers in Las Vegas

“To me as a small business owner I want somebody who gets things done, doesn’t matter to me if they are a bit salty in language,” she says.

‘We are competing in a rigged election’

Nevada is a battleground state, but since the controversy around Mr Trump’s alleged treatment of women began, his rival Hillary Clinton has taken a lead in the polls.

As he slips in polls around the country, Mr Trump has increasingly turned his attention to criticising the electoral process itself — claiming repeatedly over the past couple of weeks that the election will be rigged.

“Remember, we are competing in a rigged election,” Mr Trump said at a Wisconsin rally on Monday night.

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“They even want to try and rig the election at the polling booths, where so many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is all too common.”

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

His unfounded accusations resulted in harsh words from President Barack Obama today, who claimed no “serious” person could claim the US elections are rigged.

“I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts,” Mr Obama said.

“If you start whining before the games even over, if whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.

“I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.

“And if he got the most votes then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that.”

Mrs Clinton continues to stay out of the fray — again absent from the campaign trail on Tuesday as she prepares for the third and final showdown with Mr Trump.

However, the Clinton campaign is dealing with its own scandal — after WikiLeaks released more hacked emails from campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account in recent days.

They’re the most unpopular major candidates in US political history, with years in the spotlight, having left a litany of scandals in their respective wakes.

It’s fitting that the final debate takes place under the bright lights of Sin City.

 

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