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Kamala Harris: Michigan likely to decide next president

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris urged Metro Detroit voters Sunday to get their ballots in early, repeatedly emphasizing the importance of Michigan and the Democrats' narrow 2016 loss in the state. 

President Donald Trump won his slimmest victory in Michigan in 2016 by a margin of 10,704 votes or about two votes per precinct. 

"You all are very likely going to make the decision about who is the next president of the United States," said Harris in a reference to the battleground of Michigan while at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 59 in Detroit, where more than 100 people gathered in the parking lot.

"I am back in Detroit to ask you once again to please, please tell everybody you know about what is at stake in this election."

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris makes a campaign appearance at a canvas kickoff event at the Troy Community Center in Troy on Oct. 25, 2020.

The visit to Detroit was the California senator's second since being named Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate and occurred nine days before the election as candidates and their surrogates pour into the swing state. Harris also made stops Sunday in Wayne and Oakland counties, the state's two most populous counties where the campaign focused on appealing to the party's base. 

At each of the senator's stops, speakers addressed church, labor and community groups throughout Metro Detroit emphasizing a crossroads of crises in the United States, including public health, the economy, racial justice, voter suppression and the environment. 

Harris' visit included stops in Detroit, Southfield, Troy and Pontiac. Voter mobilization events in Detroit and Pontiac brought in more than 100 people, while the event in Troy attracted about 200. 

The crowd sizes appeared to be a departure from the smaller events Biden and Harris have held in an effort to stop COVID-19 spread. All attendees wore masks and largely social distanced until the end of each address, when attendees crowded to the front of the venue to greet Harris.

Michigan Democratic leaders including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence of Southfield made remarks at the Detroit event, each stressing the importance of early voting. 

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris speaks with Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, D-Detroit, during a voter mobilization event in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.

More than 3 million people have requested an absentee ballot in Michigan and, as of last week, more than 2 million had already submitted their ballots. Some experts estimate a total of 5.9 million people will vote in this year's general election. 

More than 165,000 Detroit residents have already received their absentee ballots and the city has more than 20 early voting centers and 30 ballot drop boxes. An estimated 98,000 Detroit residents have already voted.

"Let’s show up now; let's get our votes in the bank this week," Whitmer said in Detroit. "Michigan is going to decide the next president of the United States.”

Trump's campaign criticized the visit, noting the contrast between Biden's agenda and Trump's.

“Between Kamala Harris’ praise for defunding the police, support of the Green New Deal and giving taxpayer-funded health care to illegal immigrants, the contrast between Biden-Harris and President Trump’s America First policies couldn’t be clearer," said Chris Gustafson, a spokesman for Trump's Michigan campaign. "Michiganders will soundly reject Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in nine days.” 

Kamala Harris speaks at Triumph Church in Detroit on Sunday, October 25.

During Harris’ first stop in Southfield, she spoke to people attending a drive-in church service at Triumph Church. The senator was live-streamed on a large screen outside the church, which has roughly 30,000 congregants and six locations across Michigan. 

The Rev. Solomon Kinloch introduced Harris as the “senator we’ve come to love.” Kinloch is the brother of Jonathan Kinloch, the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party chair.

Harris told congregants their faith “cannot remain just a matter of personal sustenance” and emphasized the need for leadership in times of crisis.

“In a moment of crisis, real leaders step up and figure out their place,” she said

At a voting rally at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit, Harris, accompanied by Lawrence, urged people to vote early, noting former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election in Michigan by roughly two votes per precinct.

“People aren’t used to it,” Harris said, of Michigan’s new no-reason absentee voting laws. “So we got to let everybody know that it’s easy to do and that they can do it any day and do it around their schedule.”

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris touched down in Detroit shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday, for a swath of Metro Detroit stops nine days out from the presidential election.

In brief remarks to reporters on her arrival, Harris defended the Biden campaign’s visit to Michigan, noting they were taking the proper precautions to prevent COVID-19 spread.

But Harris criticized the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, noting Michigan recorded more than 3,000 cases Saturday alone. Whitmer's administration in the spring and summer played up praise for her administration's handling of the virus when cases declined.

On Saturday, Michigan broke a new daily record for reported cases with 3,338, but the state health department noted more than 96% of test results reported Saturday originated from tests in the past five days.

“This administration failed to take personal responsibility in terms of leading the nation through this deadly mass casualty event,” Harris said. “That’s why they have forfeited their right to a second term in office.”

During her Sept. 22 visit, when she made stops in Flint, Oakland County and Detroit, Harris said a path toward victory for Biden "runs straight through" Michigan.

Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a rally in Waterford on Thursday, while President Donald Trump last visited Michigan Oct. 17 for a rally that drew thousands of people in Muskegon. The Republican president is scheduled to hold a rally at Lansing's airport on Tuesday.

The president is behind Biden by 9 percentage points, according to a Sept. 30-Oct. 3 Detroit News and WDIV-TV poll of 600 likely voters. That survey had a margin of error of plus-minus 4 points.