About 20 people turned out to Pacific Inn Monday evening to watch Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face off in the first of three presidential debates ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. election.

Expatriates search for presidential appeal

A handful of U.S. citizens who call the Peninsula home gathered at the Pacific Inn Monday to take in the first presidential debate.

A handful of U.S. citizens who call the Peninsula home gathered at the Pacific Inn Monday to take in the first presidential debate.

As candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off at Hofstra University in New York, laughter rang out time and again at the South Surrey hotel, as what’s now being described by some as “one of history’s weirdest, wildest debates” played out on three television screens.

Jobs, taxes, housing and deleted emails were among topics raised, debated and criticized by the pair in the first half of the debate, with Trump adamant that “we have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us,” and Clinton criticizing his plan as “Trumped up, trickle-down.”

“Mine would create 10 million jobs and yours would lose us 3½  million jobs,” Clinton said.

Tuesday, various media described Trump as a dominant force early in the debate – who went on to interrupt his opponent dozens of times over the course of the evening – but a composed, prepared Clinton as the overall winner.

At the Pacific Inn Monday, Denis Mikolaycik, a White Rock real estate agent who hails from southern California, said who will ultimately come out on top on Nov. 8 “is still potentially up in the air.”

Regardless, “it’s going to change the face of America,” Mikolaycik said. “Half the country despises each of these candidates.”

Describing himself as someone who votes for the person, not the party, Mikolaycik said he has many friends and family who are supporting Trump “because of the novelty and hatred of the establishment.

“It’s not necessarily he’s the best man, it’s just the best time to buck the system,” he said.

Mikolaycik, however, will cast his ballot for Clinton.

“She’s best-qualified for the job, I know that,” he said. “She’s got Bill on her side, so you get two for the price of one.”

While Joyce Dennison said there were some Republicans in the crowd at Pacific Inn Monday – and all were welcome to be there – she, too, would be backing Clinton.

Also formerly from California, Dennison described Trump as a “Jekyll-and-Hyde character” who has no background in politics.

“I don’t think he has the experience” to be president, she said.

Dennison said that while Trump was “trying to attack” Clinton, the Democratic candidate was rising above it.

“I think she’ll come across fine,” she said.

It’s estimated Monday’s debate was watched by 100 million people.

The debate watch in South Surrey was among a trio of Lower Mainland events sponsored by the Vancouver chapter of Democrats Abroad, an organization of U.S. citizens living in B.C. Other event sites included Vancouver and Abbotsford.

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