Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks to supporters at UNC-Asheville, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Asheville, N.C. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek) Kamala Harris in NC
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks to supporters at UNC-Asheville, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Asheville, N.C. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

The vice presidential candidate made two stops in NC Wednesday, emphasizing healthcare and education in a critical battleground state with needs in both areas.

“The bottom line is … the outcome of this race will be decided by you, North Carolina,” Kamala Harris said Wednesday at an early vote launch mobilization event in Asheville. 

The Democratic vice presidential candidate’s comment reinforced the volatile nature of the presidential race in this important battleground state, which President Donald Trump won by 3.6 points in 2016.

Current polls have consistently been neck-and-neck between Trump and Vice President Joe Biden. 

Harris’ remarks focused on energizing the Democratic ticket’s expanding base, claiming that the campaign’s mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents is the broadest political coalition seen in years.

“The choices and decisions you are making will impact people … you may never meet, but whose lives will forever be changed because of what you are doing,” Harris said, urging the crowd to vote early, and to reach out to engage friends and neighbors in the campaign.   

The rally was followed by a stop later in the day in Charlotte. Both had initially been slated for last Thursday, but were rescheduled after two people connected to the Biden campaign tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Trump also held a North Carolina rally Wednesday, in front of thousands of supporters, many of them unmasked, in Gastonia.

In her impassioned 15-minute outdoor speech at UNC-Asheville, Harris said that the pandemic has been an accelerator, bringing longstanding American problems to the surface.

Harris lambasted Trump for making those problems worse, starting with his disastrous response to COVID-19. She charged Trump and Vice President Mike Pence with withholding information in January about the deadly airborne virus which could have saved lives.

“Instead, the commander in chief, who’s first responsibility should be to keep the American people safe, suggested to the people [that] you’re on one side of his ledger if you don’t wear a mask and on the other side of his ledger if you do.”

“It’s stranger than fiction,” Harris said of the Trump administration’s priorities, citing what she called Trump’s “weird obsession” with overturning everything that President Obama and Vice President Biden had created.

In the midst of a public health crisis with over 220,000 dead and more than 8 million infected, “Donald Trump and his boy Bill Barr are [before] the United States Supreme Court trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act that President Obama and Vice President Biden made happen,” Harris said to cheers.

“If they are successful, it is estimated that at least 23 million Americans will lose their coverage.”

The fate of the ACA has particular import in North Carolina, which has reported record numbers of uninsured people during the pandemic. 

With Senate GOP leaders reportedly expected to push a vote on additional coronavirus relief after the election, Harris argued that Republicans refused to even debate the Democratic-controlled US House’s HEROES Act, which Harris said would bring relief to Americans suffering from the economic downturn brought on by the virus. She particularly focused on the Act’s expansion of SNAP benefits, saying one out of five mothers report they don’t have enough food for their children.

Instead of COVID relief, Harris said Trump and the Republicans are pushing through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, an “illegitimate”  Supreme Court nominee who will endanger the reproductive rights of women.

“I say publicly I will oppose her confirmation,” Harris said.

“The majority of the American people are saying let the American people decide who will be their president, and that [the elected President] should decide who will fill a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our land.”  

Healthcare and Education On The Ballot

Harris hammered the Democratic ticket’s talking points, presenting the election much like a set of scales hanging in the balance. She touted Biden’s achievements and campaign pledges on one hand, while lambasting Trump’s failures of leadership on the other.

While Trump wishes to overturn the ACA with no replacement plan in view, Biden plans to expand coverage, bring down drugs costs, include mental health care and lower Medicare eligibility to age 60, Harris said.

Also, countering a frequent Trump claim, Harris said Biden will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year. Harris added that he’s going to give first-time home buyers a $15,000 tax credit to help with down payments and closing costs.

“On the other hand, we have Donald Trump who passed the tax bill benefiting the top 1% and the biggest corporations of America which will lead to a $2 trillion deficit,” she countered.

Harris praised Biden’s support of public schools, and his pledge to triple Title One funding for schools in the highest-need communities.

“On the other hand,” said Harris, “we have Donald Trump who put Betsy DeVos in office.”

Education has been a major political football in NC, with many public school supporters ripping Republican state lawmakers for inadequate funding on top of boosts to school choice initiatives.

Voters have a choice to restore the country’s unity, she said, rejecting hate and division, and regaining America’s standing in the world.

“This moment will pass. Years from now … we’ll be able to tell [our children] what we did – how we organized, how we made sure people knew what’s at stake and how we reminded people that none of us is alone. We will tell them about what we did to fight for the soul of our nation.”