With less than seven weeks to go before the midterm elections, Vice President Kamala Harris swept into Milwaukee Thursday for a quick visit focused on meeting with Democratic attorneys general, Hispanic leaders and young voters.
Political activity has picked up substantially this month in battleground Wisconsin, kicked off by President Joe Biden's appearance at Milwaukee's Laborfest and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rallying Republicans in Green Bay.
The vice president delivered remarks at the Democratic Attorneys General Association Conference at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. She then headed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
For Harris, formerly the California attorney general, it was a homecoming. But she came with a tough message as she blasted the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that gave a constitutional right to abortion access.
"At this moment in our nation some of our most fundamental rights are at assault," Harris said. "Could you have ever imagined in your lifetime that would happen, such a fundamental right?"
Harris claimed that after the decision, "extremists, so-called leaders across our nation began to pass and enforce laws to criminalize doctors, nurses, health care providers."
She praised Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul for his legal move to fight the state's 1849 abortion ban.
"Somebody is trying to push the legitimacy of that law and somebody has to fight against it," she said. "Josh, our administration has your back."
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Kaul filed the lawsuit arguing that a 1985 law allowing abortions up to the point of a fetus' viability supersedes Wisconsin's 1849 ban on nearly all abortions.
"And we all know this is the beginning," Harris said of the opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Association.
When the Supreme Court removed the constitutional right to abortion that was established in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas took a broader view when writing his concurring opinion.
Thomas referred specifically to three cases that he considered to be on the same shaky constitutional footing as Roe, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the right to same-sex marriage in 2015.
"In the Dobbs decision, a justice of the United States Supreme Court says the quiet part out loud, that marriage equality may be on the line," Harris said.
At UW-Milwaukee, Harris met with 13 Hispanic leaders, including Milwaukee Common Council President José G. Pérez, Darryl Morin of Forward Latino and Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera.
"I have that honor to welcome you and let you know you are among some of the hardest working people in this community. They represent Latinos that make our region, our state better," Pérez said. "And we're there with you."
"I am here to listen more than I am to talk," Harris said.
"You look like you could be my prima (cousin)" Pérez said.
Harris smiled, clasped hands with Pérez and said, "I feel you."
Morin said he talked to Harris about his group's efforts on immigration reform, gun violence prevention and COVID-19.
"It was great to have the opportunity to meet with her and talk about our priorities," Morin said. "I was impressed with her knowledge and her empathy."
She then visited with 13 students in an American Government and Politics class and spoke of the need for leadership, especially on the issue of what she called the climate crisis.
"Part of your leadership that I'm asking of you is to remind people about communities, about the whole, that we are all in this together," she said. "You guys will pay the price for what we do or what we have not done."
As she arrived in downtown Milwaukee there were small crowds watching as the vice president's motorcade passed.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, accompanied Harris aboard Air Force Two. They were met on the tarmac by U.S. Air Force Air National Guard Col. Dan Aber and Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Fredrickson.
Republicans continue 'soft on crime' message regarding Dems
Before Harris' arrival, Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair Paul Farrow and Republican Attorney General candidate Eric Toney held a news conference accusing the Biden administration and Democrats of failing on crime.
"I would rather have her get down to the (U.S./Mexico) border and find out what's going on," Farrow said. "Because what is happening at the southern border right now is impacting us here in Wisconsin."
Toney, who is challenging Kaul, echoed Farrow saying Harris has failed to secure the southern border and Kaul hasn't stood up to her.
"Unfortunately, Josh Kaul doesn't have the guts to stand up to his own party and demand policy changes that will make our communities safer," Toney said. "Kaul and Harris are both dangerous when it comes to issues of public safety, and they represent the kind of soft-on-crime woke criminal justice policies that contributed to riots and looting in Kenosha, Madison and Milwaukee."
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kamala Harris visits Milwaukee as midterm elections heat up