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Michiganians get airtime on 2nd night of Democratic convention: 'We'd be nowhere without Joe Biden'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, credited Joe Biden with helping save the auto industry in Michigan as he cast the state's votes for the former vice president during the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night.

Peters, Democratic state Rep. Mari Manoogian of Birmingham and two officials with the United Auto Workers union were part of the convention's second night of festivities, giving Michigan a continued place in the spotlight.

"Michigan autoworkers are the best in the world. But we’d be nowhere without Joe Biden," Peters said during a national "roll call" as Biden was formally nominated. "A lot of folks wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt. But Joe Biden believed in us and together we fought to save our auto industry.”

Peters stood in front of three vehicles in Detroit along with UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry as he spoke.

The evening's programming, which has the theme "Leadership Matters," marked the second day of the four-day convention, which has gone virtual because of COVID-19. Former Vice President Joe Biden will be formally nominated for president on Tuesday, and his wife, Jill Biden, will speak.

At the beginning of Tuesday's two-hour TV time slot, Manoogian was one of 17 Democrats from across the country who helped give the keynote address.

"He understands that leadership means fighting for the people who built this country," Manoogian said of Biden.

State Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, appears during the Democratic National Convention's keynote address on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.

Monday evening, the first night of the convention, saw a speech by former First Lady Michelle Obama and another by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who criticized President Donald Trump's response to the virus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Democrats formally nominated Biden. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester — two Democrats from Biden's home state of Delaware — made the nomination.

But it was Bob King, former UAW president, who helped formally nominate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, lost to Biden in the Democratic primary season, including in Michigan.

King spoke from Ann Arbor and called Sanders a "champion of the working class."

“In a time of enormous inequality," King said, Sanders understands that the country must confront large corporations that "have far too much control over” the economy.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York seconded King's nomination.

Bob King, former president of the United Auto Workers, nominates Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president during the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.

After the nomination, Democrats began a "Roll Call Across America" to cast nominating votes. 

Speaking during Michigan's portion of the "roll call" were Peters, who's up for election this fall, and Curry. They focused in part on Biden's plan to create a million new auto jobs.

Biden's supporters plan to make the former vice president's work on auto manufacturing matters a key subject of the campaign in Michigan, a state that President Donald Trump by 10,704 votes in 2016.

The Biden campaign has argued his record on the subject, including his involvement in the 2009 auto bailout, gives him a strategic advantage over the incumbent. Biden also has been endorsed by the UAW.

In December 2008, President George W. Bush gave $25 billion in emergency loans to General Motors, Chrysler and their lending arms. President Barack Obama's administration lent another $55 billion before forcing GM and Chrysler through expedited bankruptcy proceedings that were intended to avoid even worse job losses at auto suppliers and other auto-related firms.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Ray Curry of the United Auto Workers cast Michigan's votes for Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.

Peters, a former lottery commissioner and state lawmaker, won his seat in the U.S. Senate in 2014. But he's facing businessman John James of Farmington Hills, who's seen as a rising star in Republican politics, this fall.

Ahead of Tuesday night's events, James, who lost to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, in 2018, criticized Peters, arguing the Democrat put his party over the state's interests.

In addition, Manoogian was one of 17 "rising stars" in the Democratic Party who helped give the convention's keynote address, which featured recorded speeches and videos touting Biden, early Tuesday.

At 27, Manoogian is the youngest woman currently serving in the Michigan Legislature, and the first Armenian-American woman to serve in the state House, according to her website.

Other Democrats participating in the keynote address were voting rights activist Stacey Abrams of Georgia and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania.

In 2018, Manoogian won an Oakland County state House seat that had previously been held by Republicans. This fall, her GOP opponent is Kendra Cleary of Bloomfield Township.

cmauger@detroitnews.com