VP Joe Biden to speak in Detroit next week

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Vice President Joe Biden will return to Detroit next week to make a speech on the economy, as speculation intensifies that he may run for president.

Biden’s office confirmed Friday that he will visit Detroit on Thursday, declining to offer additional details.

The visit comes just over a week after his wife, Jill Biden, accompanied President Barack Obama to Michigan for a trip to Warren to tout the value of community colleges. The Detroit News reported Wednesday that Biden was likely to make a new visit to Michigan soon.

Biden has made 16 trips to the state since taking office. His most recent was in May, when he gave the keynote address at the Detroit NAACP’s 60th annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner.

Hillary Clinton has paid much less attention to the state. Since announcing her candidacy, she made one trip to Detroit: a private press fundraiser July 21 at the Grosse Pointe home of David Katz and Jill Alper, with a brief sidetrip to a Detroit restaurant.

Clinton counts Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, among her Michigan backers. Because Biden is not an announced candidate, no major Democrats in the state have endorsed him.

Many Democrats and unions in Michigan have not picked a favorite in the Democratic field, which includes Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who met with supporters in Ann Arbor last month. But Biden has cultivated the favor of auto workers, unions and Democrats. In 2014, for example, he visited the North American International Auto show in Detroit.

Biden has become immersed in Detroit issues, including transportation needs and clearing blighted and abandoned homes and buildings, as well as the needs of its police department.

Last September, the U.S. Transportation Department awarded a $12.2 million federal grant to help finish the M-1 streetcar project — after officials warned the project might face lengthy delays without the grant.

White House budget director Shaun Donovan Donovan credits Biden. “I don’t think it would have happened without his engagement,” he said.

That same month last year, the administration awarded Detroit $25.9 million to buy 50 hybrid and clean diesel buses that will ease overcrowding, reduce wait times and provide more reliable service where 35 percent of the people live below the poverty line. They will replace aging vehicles.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Biden “was relentless in giving us guidance on what we needed to do to put our applications in to win the competitive bid” on the buses.

After his Detroit visit, Biden will travel to Columbus, Ohio, where he will deliver remarks regarding the “It’s On Us” sexual assault prevention campaign. The “It’s On Us” campaign seeks to engage college students, and all members of the campus community, in preventing sexual assault.