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Whitmer to address Dem convention Monday, but not from GM site

Craig Mauger Daniel Howes
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is slated to speak Monday at the Democratic National Convention with former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate Kamala Harris scheduled to speak Wednesday, Aug. 19.

News of the convention schedule came Tuesday as Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, announced that Harris, a U.S. senator from California, would be his nominee for vice president. Whitmer was among Biden's finalists.

The run-up to the virtual Democratic convention has forced would-be speakers to scramble for suitable venues to deliver their remarks, and even Michigan’s governor has been told no by a least one Detroit automaker. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders also has been spurned in his attempt to get a nominating speech delivered by former United Auto Workers President Bob King at a Metro Detroit union hall.

A request by Whitmer to use a General Motors Co. facility as a backdrop to her scheduled Monday speech was denied by the automaker, according to two sources familiar with the situation. A primary reason: GM doesn’t want to be perceived as throwing its corporate heft behind partisan political statements amid what’s shaping up to be a particularly heated general election campaign.

The four-day convention will be based in Milwaukee although many speakers will attend only virtually. It begins Monday and will air live each night from 9-11 p.m. Biden won't travel to Milwaukee to accept the nomination but will speak on the final night of the convention Aug. 20. 

Both Harris and Whitmer were considered top contenders to be Biden's running mate. Whitmer traveled to meet with the former vice president in Delaware on Aug. 2.

Joining Whitmer on Monday's speaker list are Sanders, the self-identified democratic socialist, and former First Lady Michelle Obama. The theme of Monday's festivities is "we the people."

Sanders managed to pull the UAW, a reliable Democratic Party stalwart, into the maelstrom of back-drop politics.

The Vermont senator this week asked that King, who led the UAW from 2010 to 2014, be permitted to use Local 600 in Dearborn as the site to formally nominate Sanders — despite the union’s formal endorsement of Biden for the Democratic nomination. UAW President Rory Gamble said no, a union spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

“It would be disrespectful — and a bit confusing to members —to have a candidate put in nomination who was not endorsed by the UAW in a UAW union hall,” UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg told The Detroit News.

Harris, the first Black woman nominated for a major party's vice presidential nomination, and former President Barack Obama will speak Aug. 19. Joe Biden's wife, Jill, and former President Bill Clinton will speak on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

"This country is confronting a series of monumental challenges," Democratic convention organizers aid in a statement. "The COVID-19 pandemic continues its rampage, tens of millions of people are out of work, and America is confronting the racial injustice that has marginalized too many people.

"Throughout our history, when we stand united, we can overcome anything. On Monday, we’ll hear from the many Americans who are rising up to take on these three crises, unite our country, and join Joe Biden in rebuilding the country and moving it forward."  

The Biden campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

cmauger@detroitnews.com