Black vote critical, Bill Clinton tells Detroit leaders
Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise and unannounced visit Wednesday night to Detroit to meet with city political and religious leaders in an effort to boost African-American voter turnout on Election Day and to outline his wife’s plans to build on President Obama’s legacy.
Clinton attended a private meeting at Fellowship Chapel on Outer Drive. Detroit clergy, Mayor Mike Duggan and other Democratic elected officials were invited to the meeting designed to boost get-out-the-vote operations this weekend for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton
“Election’s coming. We want a good turnout,” Bill Clinton said as he arrived for a private meeting Wednesday night at Fellowship Chapel.
The former president’s unexpected stop in Detroit came two days before his wife will rally supporters at Eastern Market as Republican rival Donald Trump makes a late bid to upset Clinton in Michigan, a state she’s been favored to win for months.
Duggan, entering the church, acknowledged that the 42nd president had summoned him.
“The president invited me here,” he said. “I was headed to dinner.”
Clinton’s Michigan communications director Mitchell Rivard said in a statement that the former president “urged the faith and community leaders to galvanize support for the nominee and Democrats up and down the ballot in Michigan in the last days of the campaign.”
He also outlined his wife’s plans for criminal justice reform and environmental justice issues that include Flint’s lead contamination crisis, Rivard said.
Bill Clinton spoke for about 45 minutes and told about 50 people, who included congressional, elected and religious leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and U.S. Reps. John Conyers of Detroit and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield.
Clinton said the African-American vote will make a “humongous” difference in Tuesday’s election, said the Rev. Charles Williams II, the pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit.
The former president gave a “clear picture of what we have to lose” by not electing Hillary Clinton and urged the group of pastors to encourage voting ahead of Tuesday’s election, Williams said.
“The president made it clear to the African-American leadership that the African-American vote will make or break this election,” Williams said.
Clinton also stressed the importance of getting the vote out, Williams said after leaving the meeting, which was closed to the media and public.
Virgie Rollins, the chair of the Black Caucus of the Democratic National Committee, said pastors will be encouraging members of their congregations as part of “Freedom Sunday” to vote and vote early if they can.
“(African-Americans) are going to vote,” Rollins said.
Leon Crawford, pastor of City Praise Church, said Bill Clinton had invited him to the meeting.
“It’s important for me to be here so we can rally around our party,” Crawford said. “(Hillary Clinton) needs all the support. It’s time to get out and get behind what we believe in.”
U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Sander Levin of Royal Oak also attending the meeting with Bill Clinton, according to the Clinton campaign.
Fellowship Chapel is the church of the Rev. Wendell Anthony, a prominent city minister and president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP.
Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel blasted Bill Clinton’s visit.
“It seems fitting that a family that works as hard as the Clinton’s to avoid transparency would keep even a campaign stop a secret from the voters,” McDaniel said in a statement.
“... Voters shouldn’t accept secretive dealings and blatant attempts to avoid transparency laws from elected officials at any level, and especially not from their president. I’m confident they’ll send a strong message to the Clintons on Election Day that they want, and demand, better from their next commander-in-chief.”
On Thursday, Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a prominent African-American politician, is expected to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Detroit with Jackson, who has made several trips to the Motor City in recent months.
Hillary Clinton’s Friday rally is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. at Eastern Market, and tickets can be reserved on her campaign website.