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Michigan Democrats tout Harris as Republicans slam her

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's historic pick of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris for his running mate Tuesday had Michigan state Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, thinking of his 3-year-old daughter's first Halloween costume.

When his daughter Lilly was a baby, she went as president behind a podium and on top of a piece of Plexiglass, which served as a "glass ceiling," Hollier recalled.

"It puts a Black woman one step closer," the African-American state senator said of Harris' selection.

Michigan Democrats applauded Tuesday the historic nature of Biden's selection, which made the California senator the first Black woman to run on a major party’s presidential ticket. But Michigan Republicans slammed the pick, attacking Harris as a "radical."

In this March 9, 2020, file photo Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at a campaign rally for presumptive Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Renaissance High School in Detroit.

While many Democrats in the state were hoping Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would be selected as Biden's running mate, they expressed little disappointment about Harris beating out Michigan's top officeholder for the job.

Whitmer, who traveled to Delaware to meet with Biden on Aug. 2, was considered one of the top contenders for the vice presidential nomination. But she tweeted that she was "extraordinarily proud" to support the new Democratic ticket of Biden and Harris.

Harris has been a "fearless leader who has always stood on the side of working families on our country," said Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

"Her record of public service shows she has what it takes to stand shoulder to shoulder with Vice President Biden on the campaign trail and in the Oval Office as they work together to build our country back from Donald Trump’s failed leadership," Barnes added.

Harris has been California's attorney general and a San Francisco district attorney.

But the Michigan Republican Party on Tuesday criticized Whitmer for agreeing to TV appearances and print profiles “in her quest to become Joe Biden’s vice presidential nominee.” 

“Despite nursing homes being overrun by COVID-19, a broken unemployment system and vast executive overreach, Whitmer’s attention was fixed solely on the office she wanted, not the office she had,” Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox said. 

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who lives in Michigan, said Harris likely would “be in charge the next four years” should Biden be elected. 

“Kamala Harris’ extreme positions, from raising taxes to abolishing private health insurance to comparing law enforcement officials to the KKK, show that the left-wing mob is controlling Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president,” McDaniel said. 

Harris initially co-sponsored U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan that would eliminate private insurance. But before a late July Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, she released her own plan that would have allowed private companies to keep providing health insurance if they followed certain rules as she transitioned the country to a universal health care system over a decade.

Michigan’s unions supported the pick, saying Harris, 55, is a “champion for working people” and noting, if elected, she would be the first woman to hold one of the two highest offices in the nation.

“It’s about time,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber. “I can't wait to join ... working people all over Michigan in enthusiastically voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this fall."

Harris supported union picket lines outside GM factories in fall 2019 and her votes reflected that support when it came to wages, education, job security and workplace safety, the United Auto Workers said in a statement. In October, she walked a picket line outside a GM plant north of Reno, Nevada.

“There is comfort for UAW members in knowing that Kamala Harris is part of this ticket,” the union said. 

Harris was a "strong pick," said Brandon Dillon, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. She comes from the same governing philosophy as Biden, being a consensus seeker and not a bomber thrower, he said.

The pick will appeal to African American voters and send a signal to female suburban voters about the importance of having a woman as vice president, Dillon said.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said Harris's experience in the Senate makes "her incredibly qualified and the perfect counterpart for this Democratic ticket."

Harris became the first African-American to represent California in the United States Senate on Jan. 3, 2017.

"We cannot take anything about this race for granted, and I look forward to turning out the 12th district and all of Michigan for Vice President Biden and Senator Harris in November, to protect our country and democracy," Dingell said.

Harris is "ready to help lead our country," said U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township,

"This is a historic moment and I’m proud to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as they work to unite our country and build a more prosperous future for all Americans," Peters said.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

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