By Paul Rozycki
Greeted with cheers of “Kamala, Kamala,” and “Welcome to Flint,” Democratic vice- presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris began her Michigan campaign tour Tuesday, with a stop in Flint. She visited the new Comma Bookstore near Buckham Alley before walking to the Farmers’ Market surrounded by media, Secret Service, and enthusiastic supporters.
A modest crowd that waited over an hour to greet her at the Comma Bookstore, grew as she walked towards the Farmers’ Market.
Along the way she stopped at the Capitol Theater to greet Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and pose for photos with supporters.
She was joined by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and state Rep. Cynthia Neeley (D-34th Dist.) for the walk from the theater to the Farmers’ Market. Flint native and WNBA player Deanna Nolan also joined the group.
Harris visited and spoke with several Black owned businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit both Black individuals and Black businesses harder than other groups.
She met with the owners of Magnificlips Barbershop, Earl Jones and Tim Tyler. The downtown shop had just opened in March, shortly before the governor ordered a statewide shutdown of most businesses.
Harris also visited with Egypt Otis, who owns the new Comma Bookstore, which highlights and promotes Black authors and businesses. In an interview with ABC-12 Otis expressed her surprise and gratitude as being chosen to meet with Harris.
After pausing for photos in front of the Capitol Theater, Harris walked to the Farmers’ Market where she was greeted by a larger crowd of supporters. She purchased a bag of local produce that she gave to Sen. Stabenow who accompanied her on the walk, along with Mayor Neeley.
On her walk to the Farmers’ Market, Harris also spoke with Jason Trice, the owner of Bedrock Apparel, also a Black owned downtown Flint business.
In response to the COVID pandemic, Harris and her staff were all wearing masks, as were most of those in attendance. She greeted supporters with an elbow bump rather than the traditional handshake.
Before her downtown walk, Harris met with community leaders and indicated that it was a responsibility of the federal government to aid local communities facing problems such as the Flint water crisis. She promised greater cooperation between state and federal officials in dealing with the kind of problems faced by cities like Flint.
After visiting the Farmers’ Market, Sen. Harris left for Detroit where she was expected to speak at a voter mobilization event and hold a roundtable conversation with Black voters in the Motor City.
This was Harris’ first campaign tour in Michigan since being chosen as Joe Biden’s running made in the August Democratic convention. The voter mobilization event is designed to encourage voters to turnout in larger numbers than they did in 2016.
While Democrats won both Flint and Detroit by large margins that year, turnout was significantly lower than earlier years. One goal of Harris’s visit is to boost turnout for 2020. Absentee voting begins Sept. 24 and a record number of absentee voters are expected. Michigan was a key state in 2016, going for Trump by only 10,704 votes, his narrowest margin in the nation, and it is expected to be a critical state in 2020.
Kamala Harris is the third woman to run as a vice-presidential candidate of a major party, (Sarah Palin in 2008, and Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 were the others) but is the first Black woman to be nominated.
She was elected district attorney of San Francisco in 2003, attorney general of California in 2010 and 2014, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016. In 2020, she was one of nearly two dozen candidates who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, and considered an early frontrunner. She ended her campaign in early December 2019. She was selected as Joe Biden’s running mate during the 2020 Democratic convention in August.
EVM political writer Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.