Election 2020

Kamala Harris Presses Biden Campaign’s Case In Houston

The Democratic vice presidential nominee contrasted former Vice President Joe Biden’s proposals with President Donald Trump’s record in a speech at the University of Houston.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at the University of Houston Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Houston.

Democratic vice-presidential nominee and California Senator Kamala Harris came to Houston Friday night on the final stop of a three-city swing through Texas, with the aim of encouraging Democrats to get out the vote on Election Day Tuesday.

Harris arrived at Houston's Hobby Airport shortly after polls closed on the last day of early voting, having made previous stops the same day in Fort Worth and McAllen.

Harris visited as most polls show the race in Texas between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden closer than any presidential contest in decades.

"We're putting a lot of resources into Texas," Harris told reporters shortly after she stepped off her campaign jet. "We understand that...the people of Texas, Texans, have so much at stake in the outcome of this election, and they deserve to be heard. They deserve to be engaged by us, because we intend to earn every vote. We're not going to tell anybody they're supposed to vote for us. We want to earn those votes."

Harris addressed a crowd of 225 people on a stage set up outside the Gerald Hines School of Architecture at the University of Houston. She was preceded on the stage by M.J. Hegar, the Democratic Senate candidate from Texas, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston.

Much of Harris' speech revolved around four crises she said the country is facing simultaneously, and compared Biden's proposals for handling each crisis with Trump's record in doing so.

In each case, Harris linked the calamity to conditions in Texas.

  • COVID-19/Health Care: Harris recounted how, according to journalist Bob Woodward, the president was briefed in January about the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, then how Trump has downplayed the lethality of the disease. "He covered it up," she said. "He called it a hoax." Harris also described Trump's handling of the resulting pandemic as, "the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of the United States." Harris then spoke about the Trump administration's ongoing efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, culminating in a case that will go before the U.S. Supreme Court one week after Election Day. To make the point that health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions was at stake, Harris said, "Raise your hand if you know somebody with diabetes. Raise your hand if you love someone with high blood pressure. Raise your hand if your relative has lupus. Raise your hand if you know somebody who has breast cancer and is surviving. Raise your hand if you know somebody who caught COVID."
  • The Economy: Harris returned to a frequent theme of the Biden campaign, arguing that Trump had squandered the economic strength he inherited from President Barack Obama. She argued that, to the extent Trump had strengthened the economy, all the gains had gone to the wealthy. She characterized the current economy as the worst since the Great Depression. "Here in Texas," she said, "one in 10 households is describing members of their family as having been hungry. One in six households is describing an inability to pay the rent. Here in Texas, one in four small businesses is describing having to shut down with concerns they will never be able to reopen." Harris outlined the Biden plan for fixing the economy as eliminating the Trump tax cut, raising taxes on those making more than $400,000 per year, while cutting taxes for the middle class. She said a Biden administration would use the resulting increase in revenue to invest in infrastructure and create new jobs.
  • Racial Injustice and Inequity: Harris spoke of a pattern of discrimination by President Trump, stretching back to his fomenting the conspiracy theory questioning whether President Obama was born in the United States, as well as his remarks when he announced his 2016 presidential campaign calling Mexicans "rapists," and his remarks after the 2017 neo-Nazi demonstration in Charlottesville that left one woman dead, when Trump referred to "very fine people on both sides." Noting the presence of George Floyd's family in the audience, Harris outlined steps a Biden administration would take to deal with racial justice and inequity in law enforcement. Those steps, she said, would include decriminalizing marijuana and expunging the records of those prosecuted for its use, ending private prisons and cash bail, banning the use of choke holds and carotid holds by police officers, and creating a national registry for police officers so that officers fired from one jurisdiction could not easily be hired by another.
  • Climate Change: Harris noted that the Gulf Coast had endured no fewer than five named tropical storms this year alone, and she spoke of the wildfires in her home state of California and elsewhere in the west. She recounted an interview in which Donald Trump, asked about whether climate change was responsible for the wildfires, said, "science doesn't know." "Science does know, Mr. President," Harris said Friday. "And science knows so much that the leading science publication (Scientific American) has endorsed Joe Biden for president of the United States." Harris contrasted Trump's inaction on climate change with Biden's position that climate change represents an "existential crisis." "Joe knows," she said, "that if you deal with this in terms of investment in renewable energies and investment in the technologies that are about solar and wind power – Texas is one of the leaders – that you also invest in jobs." She did not address accusations by Republicans that a Biden administration would ban fracking or phase out oil and gas production, both of which Biden has denied.

As Harris spoke, several dozen pro-Trump demonstrators gathered on the opposite side of the Hines School, chanting "Four more years," and "Trump 2020."

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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