Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary: 'It's a turnout race'

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit —​ Former President Bill Clinton made a quick, unannounced stop Thursday morning at an Eastern Market coffee shop, where he stumped for wife and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, urged Democrats to hit the polls Tuesday, and said he wants other struggling American cities to follow Detroit’s lead to resurgence.

“It’s a turnout race,” the 42nd president said, citing close poll numbers.

His stop came as Democratic operatives in the city have growing concerns that Hillary Clinton faces waning enthusiasm among African-American voters. The former president helped organize a Wednesday night meeting in Detroit with the city’s religious and political leaders to plot turnout strategy.

Detroit strategists say Hillary Clinton needs to use a 5:15 p.m. Friday rally in Eastern Market to boost Democratic turnout in Michigan’s largest city.

Bill Clinton on Thursday also criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign approach, without mentioning him by name.

“I just don’t believe in Hillary’s opponent, who thinks America is going down the tubes ... I think we’re coming up,” he said. “(We need someone) who is going to put the pedal to the metal, not someone who’s going to undo what we’ve done.”

Trump spokesman Jason Miller greeted news of Bill Clinton’s visit as a sign of weakness.

“Clinton campaign pushes panic button in Michigan,” Miller tweeted Wednesday evening.

But Clinton on Thursday also was interested in Detroit’s comeback since it emerged from the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in December 2014.

“Because this is only the beginning,” Clinton told local business owner Dayne Bartscht, as the two waited for coffee at Germack Coffee Roasting Company. “We have an almost unlimited capacity to grow (in Detroit.) It gives me chills. And we can do this anywhere.”

Bartscht, who is in the process of opening the nearby Eastern Market Brewing Company, later said Clinton expanded on the idea of Detroit’s role model status.

“He mentioned he wants to see some other large cities follow our path,” said Bartscht, who turned 31 years old on Thursday. “I was excited to hear that.”

The pair talked for several minutes Thursday, as media and passersby crowded the small coffee shop. Employees stayed busy behind the counter, grinding coffee beans and handing out orders as the former president stood to the side.

Bartscht said Clinton spoke specifically about his own policies during his two terms as president.

“He touched on how Hillary has some similar plans to expand upon what he’s done,” Bartscht said.

One young supporter at the coffee shop Thursday can't yet vote. Jordan Queen, 12, played hooky Thursday morning after her mother, an employee at Eastern Market, got a tip that a Clinton campaign surrogate would visit the neighborhood.

"I was on my way to drop her off at school," said Queen's mother, 36-year-old Patrice Brown. "And then we rushed over. We decided to be late for school."

Mother and daughter got a picture with Clinton, with the preteen keeping mostly quiet. Asked later how she felt about the meeting, Jordan gave a shy thumbs up.

On his way into the coffee shop earlier Thursday, Clinton shook hands and took selfies with several people on the sidewalk.

“Are you going to be the ‘first man?’” one asked.

“I hope so,” Clinton responded.

The Associated Press contributed.

Absentee ballots

Detroit’s Department of Elections opens up its main office at 2978 W. Grand Blvd. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Monday for in-person absentee voting ahead of Election Day.

Registered voters can obtain an absentee ballot before Tuesday if they are over age 60, physically unable to get to the polls, unable to vote in person due to religious reasons, in jail awaiting trial or arraignment or plan to be out of town on Tuesday.

The main Department of Elections office on West Grand Boulevard and four satellite absentee voting sites also will be open Saturday starting at 8 a.m. and will remain open based on demand.

Those locations are:

■ Wayne County Community College northwest campus, 8200 W. Outer Drive

■ Wayne County Community College eastern campus, 5901 Conner

■ Patton Recreation Center, 2301 Woodmere St.

■ Rosa Parks Transit Center (downtown), 360 Michigan Ave.

(313) 223-4616