RALEIGH, N.C. - Sen. Kamala Harris spoke at Shaw University and a Black-owned barbershop on Monday in her first visit to North Carolina as the Democratic nominee for vice president.
Harris talked about the U.S. Supreme Court at Shaw, a historically black university (HBCU), before meeting with Black voters at a Southeast Raleigh barbershop and then a short surprise visit to Trophy Brewing downtown.
Harris, a U.S. senator from California and former state attorney general, spoke two days after President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat that became vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Harris is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to begin considering Barrett's nomination Oct. 12.
"We will not give in. We will not let the infection that President Trump has injected into the presidency and into Congress, that has paralyzed our politics and pitted Americans against each other, spread to the United States Supreme Court," Harris said.
Harris said Barrett on the Supreme Court could mean that the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act are threatened.
She said that Trump ignored Ginsburg's final wish to hold off on her replacement until after the election, which Harris called "a wish, by the way, shared by the American people."
"We're not even debating whether the Senate should hold off," Harris said, on confirming Barrett. "We are in the middle of an election. An ongoing election."
In the speech at Shaw in downtown Raleigh, she also took a few jabs at Trump.
"He knows he can't win if the people vote. Donald Trump is weak, so he is throwing up every roadblock he can to suppress the vote," Harris said.
Harris said the election between presidential candidates Trump and Joe Biden is about "who we are, what we stand for and who we want to be."
Harris is a graduate of Howard University, an HBCU.
Trump campaign spokesperson Gates McGavick said in an emailed statement that Trump's health care agenda lowers health costs, provides flexibility and includes his recent executive order about preexisting conditions.
"Kamala Harris is wasting her time here with a last-minute, low-energy visit to North Carolina," McGavick said.
In the early evening Monday, Harris visited White's Barbershop & Beauty Salon, owned by Sylvester and Rogerline White, for a moderated discussion in the store's parking lot on Hill Street in Southeast Raleigh. Raleigh City Council member Corey Branch was in the socially distanced audience, who sat in chairs set apart by circles marked on the ground.
About 15 people asked questions of Harris, including LeVon Barnes, a Durham Public Schools teacher who has previously run for office.
Barnes asked her about young Black leaders and said he liked her response.
"Her points that we have to tell our young men that they are already leaders instead of telling them they can be leaders was critical," Barnes told The News & Observer.
"Also that mentorship is important, in which I have my own youth empowerment group in Durham. Lastly our young men need to see others that look like them in seats of power that they can aspire to become," Barnes said.
Harris was also asked about how she and Biden would represent Black voters.
"You have to earn the vote," she said. "If you define the win of simply beating Donald Trump, then the job is over the day we get sworn in," Harris said. She said if it is about confronting issues, the day they get sworn in is the day the job begins.
Harris, a former prosecutor, said that she and Biden want to ban choke holds by law enforcement, have a standard for police use of force and get rid of private prisons.
"The business model (for private prisons) is that certain human beings are making money off the incarceration of other human beings," she said.
Harris said the United States needs to reimagine "how we do public safety."
She was also asked about the death of Breonna Taylor, and said she believes there needs to be a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"We say her name to motivate action, and that's what's most important," Harris said.
There are 2.5 million Democrats and 2.1 million Republicans registered to vote in North Carolina, according to the state Board of Elections. Nearly 1.5 million North Carolina voters are Black.
The Biden campaign has a $280 million television and digital ad campaign targeting Black voters in battleground states, which includes North Carolina. One of the national ads was filmed in a Durham barbershop.
After Harris' barbershop visit, she made one more stop: to Trophy Brewing on Morgan Street downtown. She surprised diners and was met by Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and U.S. House candidate Deborah Ross.
Harris was last in the Triangle in August 2019, when she was campaigning in the presidential primary. She gave two speeches in Durham.
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