Flint — Vice President Mike Pence welcomed a Michigan rally for the second time in less than a week on Wednesday and a vote for President Trump by a Flint council members six days out from Tuesday’s election.
Maurice Davis, vice president for the Flint City Council, spoke ahead of Pence’s rally. The self-described lifelong Democrat announced earlier this month that he was voting for Trump on Tuesday.
Pence thanked Davis for committing his vote to Trump. “I’m partial to vice presidents,” he said.
“We need you to show them that Michigan is Trump country,” he said. “…Four years ago here in Michigan, you believed we could be strong again. You believed we could be prosperous again.”
The crowd started chanting, “Four more years” a short way into the address.
“When Mr. Trump say ‘what the hell you go to lose,’ he was talking to me,” said Davis, who has advocated for limits on Flint liquor stores to decrease violence in Flint and criticized continuing fallout from the Flint water crisis.
Davis told The Detroit News earlier that his decision, first reported by the “No BS News Hour with Charlie LeDuff,” is prompted by frustration with the conditions in Flint and in the black community. But he told The News Sunday his support didn’t extend to making “a pitiful commercial about how beautiful Trump is.”
“When they say go vote, they mean vote Democrat,” Davis said. “All over the nation, we as Black are labeled Democrat.
“If the Democrats can’t help we’re going to go to whoever can help,” he said.
While addressing reforms the Trump administration enacted on national defense and veterans affairs, Pence pushed to send a “West Point graduate” from Michigan to Washington, D.C.
“We need Michigan to send John James to the U.S. Senate,” he said about the Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.
Pence also touted the Trump administration’s economic and trade policies and improvements in the auto industry, including an announced $150 million investment in a General Motors assembly plant in Flint. He noted someone in the crowd was wearing a United Auto Workers union shirt.
“That’s all a result of cutting those taxes and rolling back red tape and it also has a lot to do with trade,” Pence said.
Pence spoke for about an hour in Oakland County’s Waterford Township last Thursday, touting the Trump administration’s economic achievements and saying voters were choosing between freedom and a path to socialism. He urged Democrat Joe Biden to give a “straight answer” on whether he’ll expand the U.S. Supreme Court.
About 200 seats were set up outside AVFlight. The seats filled quickly and dozens more are standing.
People entering the gated seating area had their temperatures checked and most were wearing masks upon entry. Many took their masks off once they found their place in the crowd.
Ahead of the vice president’s arrival, a small plane carried a banner behind it reading, “That woman from MI kept us safe, not Trump!”
In the crowd were U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, and Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox, who gave a short address ahead of Pence urging people to vote for Trump and James.
While Flint has long been a Democratic stronghold. Genesee County moved further right in the 2016 election.
Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in Genesee County — the state’s fifth largest county — by about nine percentage points, or about 18,500 votes, in 2016.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney lost to Obama in 2012 by about 57,1000 voters, or about 28 percentage points.
Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016, his smallest margin of victory nationally.
Pence has been criticized for continuing to campaign instead of entering a 2-week quarantine after two of his close contacts tested positive for the virus last week. But Pence tested negative for the virus Wednesday morning, according to the New York Times.
Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Flint, criticized the visit Wednesday, calling Pence “the president’s enabler in chief” and doubling down of campaign criticism.
“Here Mike Pence is today holding another super spreader event after his own office and staff couldn’t even protect themselves from COVID-19,” Kildee said.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, Genesee County had 5,766 cases and 308 deaths, with a positivity rate of about 6.1%. The county has had roughly 758 people hospitalized since the start of the pandemic.
Flint residents account for 1,827, or about 32%, of the county’s overall cases.
On Wednesday, the state added 3,271 COVID-19 cases and 18 more deaths for a total of 167,545 cases statewide and 7,257 deaths.