Harris Meets Blake Family to Kick Off Wisconsin Visit

September 7, 2020 Updated: September 7, 2020

MILWAUKEE—Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris met Monday with the family of a Wisconsin man shot by police last month to kick off her visit to the critical swing state, where Vice President Mike Pence was also visiting as the presidential race enters its final phase.

Harris gathered with Jacob Blake’s father, two sisters, and members of his legal team at a private airport in Milwaukee while Blake’s mother and attorney Ben Crump joined by phone. Blake was not part of the conversation, according to a list of attendees released by the campaign. Joe Biden met with the family last week during a visit to Kenosha, the city where police shot Blake.

Blake, 29, was shot by a police officer as he appeared to resist arrest in an incident that was captured on camera on Aug. 23. Blake was wanted for sexual assault and was the subject of a 911 call regarding a boyfriend being at a home; his girlfriend said he was not supposed to be there.

The meeting kicked off a packed day of Labor Day campaign events, with Harris scheduled to meet with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union members and black business owners in Milwaukee, while Pence will tour an energy facility in La Crosse.

Biden, meanwhile, is collecting a trio of endorsements from organized labor as he heads to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for an AFL-CIO virtual town hall with union President Richard Trumka. President Donald Trump planned an afternoon news conference from the White House.

Kamala Harris
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 19, 2020. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Trump’s narrow win in Wisconsin in 2016 helped to send him to the White House. The state’s importance was underscored by all four candidates campaigning there over the past week.

The Biden campaign believes its labor support could help get out the vote in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

According to details shared first with The Associated Press, the campaign will announce three union endorsements: the Laborers’ International Union of North America, the International Union of Elevator Constructors, and the National Federation of Federal Employees, collectively representing hundreds of thousands of union workers nationwide who can be mobilized to support the campaign.

Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrive to board a plane at New Castle Airport in New Castle, Del., on Sept. 7, 2020. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Labor Day typically marks the unofficial start to the fall campaign season as candidates accelerate their activity for the final sprint to Election Day. But Monday’s events are playing out this year against the backdrop of a pandemic that has upended campaigning, forcing much of the candidates’ traditional activity online.

Indeed, this marks Harris’s first solo foray out on the campaign trail for in-person events since she was announced as Biden’s running mate nearly a month ago. But Biden himself has stepped up his campaigning over the past week, traveling to Pittsburgh and Kenosha and holding two news conferences. Aides say to expect both Biden and Harris to increase their campaigning for the remaining weeks.

A strong economy that was Trump’s biggest asset for reelection has now become a potential liability, brought down by the coronavirus. The Biden campaign has emphasized the economic damage wrought by what Biden argues was an inadequate response to the pandemic that resulted in more loss of life and jobs than necessary. It’s a line both Biden and Harris are likely to push while speaking to union voters.

The U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from its epic collapse in the spring as many businesses have reopened and rehired some laid-off employees. Yet the recovery is far from complete. About half the 22 million jobs that vanished in the pandemic have been recovered.

Economic inequalities also appear to have widened, with lower-income and minority workers suffering disproportionately while affluent Americans have lost fewer jobs and even benefited from rising stock and home prices.

By Noreen Nasir, Alexandra Jaffe, and Kathleen Ronayne

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report