PHILADELPHIA - Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris came to Philadelphia on Thursday with an itinerary and a message aimed at reaching the city's Black and Latino voters, saying the coronavirus pandemic has been "an accelerator" of inequities minority communities have long faced - and that President Donald Trump has worsened their plight.
"It has accelerated the disparities. It has highlighted the injustices," Harris, a senator from California, said outside City Councilmember Cherelle Parker's East Mount Airy home. "And in one way perhaps there is then an opportunity for more people to see what some of us have been knowing for generations around issues like systemic racism."
Harris' whirlwind blitz through Philadelphia was her first 2020 campaign trip to what may be the most pivotal battleground state in the election.
The first Black woman, the first woman of Indian descent and the fourth woman to ever be nominated for national office by a major party, Harris made the trip as her campaign with Joe Biden embarks on a push to appeal to Black voters in key states like Pennsylvania. Democrats will likely need improved turnout in minority communities to overcome Trump's resilient popularity with white working class voters in rural areas and small Rust Belt towns.
Biden was also in the state Thursday, appearing outside Scranton for a CNN town hall, two days after Trump's ABC town hall in Philadelphia.
Harris' first stop was in West Oak Lane, where U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat whose district includes Philadelphia, introduced her to Black business owners on Ogontz Avenue. Harris spoke with the family that owns Paul Beale's Florist, which has been in business for 49 years, as well as Relish, the Southern-style restaurant known for being the preferred Election Day eatery for many of the city's Black politicians. Harris said she ate there in 2012.
Passers-by lined up to greet Harris, who took selfies and elbow-bumped fans. Leela Gupta, the daughter of Evans' chief of staff, Anuj Gupta, brought a copy of Harris' memoir, The Truths We Hold, which the senator signed for her.
In her afternoon stop in Parker's yard, Harris laid out her and Biden's agenda for Black communities, including a $100 billion loan program aimed at Black- and brown-owned small businesses, a $70 billion plan to increase funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and protecting the Affordable Care Act from Republican-led court challenges.
The dismantling of Obamacare, she said, would worsen the racial disparities in diseases including the coronavirus.
"Black folks are three times as likely to contract it, twice as likely to die from it," Harris said.