Detroit — Vice President Kamala Harris is squeezing a political fundraiser for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer into her Monday trip to Detroit, which will include a session on voting rights and a talk about COVID-19 vaccination.
Harris is set to visit the TCF Center, where she will hold a voting rights listening session and deliver remarks about COVID vaccination mobilization. Those events will be followed by a “Whitmer for Michigan finance event,” according to a White House advisory.
President Joe Biden’s frequent trips to Michigan early in his administration have signaled the state’s importance to the White House and that the 2022 midterm election campaign has started, political experts said.
The Democratic president visited a Traverse City ice cream shop and toured a cherry farm in Antrim County on July 3. Antrim is also a Republican stronghold about which former President Donald Trump has made unsubstantiated claims that 2020 election fraud occurred even after the final certified results showed the GOP incumbent overwhelmingly won the county but lost Michigan.
Biden’s early July visit was his third trip to Michigan in the less than six months he has been in office. Trump didn’t make his third trip to Michigan until March 2019, more than two years into his presidency.
Whitmer reported having a record $3.5 million in the bank for her 2022 reelection campaign earlier this year, shattering the amount of money raised by prior Michigan governors halfway through their first terms. The Democratic incumbent had received nearly $5.6 million this cycle through December.
The next fundraising disclosure is due in about two weeks.
The Michigan GOP is expected to have a contested primary as six Republicans so far have formed campaign fundraising committees to run for governor, including conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores and anti-lockdown activist and chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Mattawan. Former Detroit police chief James Craig is expected to join the race
Metro Detroit businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township has said he’s “seriously considering” running. Michigan Republicans also are watching former U.S. Senate candidate John James of Farmington Hill, but James has said little about a potential gubernatorial run.
Harris had been set to travel to Michigan on June 28 as part of the national “We Can Do This” tour to urge more Americans to get vaccinated.
Her trip was postponed after Metro Detroit experienced major flooding from a storm that dropped as much as 7 inches of rain in spots and caused major damage, shutting down roads and freeways.
Harris’ visit comes as the Michigan Legislature is considering numerous bills by Republican lawmakers to overhaul the battleground state’s election laws after former President Donald Trump lost his reelection campaign to Biden. The package includes new standards for both absentee and in-person voters.
The GOP-led Legislature has introduced dozens of bills this year proposing changes to the state’s voting system, with the Senate introducing 39 at once and the House introducing about 40 over several weeks. None of the bills have been sent to Whitmer, a Democrat who is likely to veto the more controversial proposals.
Some of the more contested bills would require an in-person voter without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot; require absentee ballot applicants to provide their driver’s license number, state identification number, the last four digits of their Social Security number or a copy of their identification; and block the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
Some bills also would increase supervision of ballot drop boxes, ban prepaid absentee ballot return envelope postage and expand canvassing boards in large counties.
Other legislation would require additional training and certification of clerks and poll workers; eliminate May and August election dates and consolidate them in a June primary; and establish polling locations at senior housing facilities and clubhouses.
Opponents of the bills have said many new requirements are politically motivated to benefit Republicans.
Harris recently met with Texas legislators at the White House who earlier this year blocked bills that would have made voting more cumbersome. Her recent trips to Greenville, South Carolina, and Atlanta both included meeting with voting rights advocates.
She is working to build a national coalition of voting rights groups, business leaders, the faith community members to advocate, educate and organize to protect the right to vote, White House officials said.
Harris also has been traveling the country to encourage more vaccinations to fight the coronavirus and its variants.
Detroit has among the state’s lowest vaccination rates with 38.3% of residents 16 years and older having received at least one dose of COVID vaccine compared with 62.2% statewide, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website. About 31.5% of Detroit’s adults are fully vaccinated compared with Michigan’s 52.3% rate.
Staff Writers Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc contributed.