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Trump scores Kilpatrick endorsement as he courts Black voters in Detroit

Former President Donald Trump arrives for a roundtable discussion on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at 180 Church in Detroit. (Katy Kildee/The Detroit News/TNS)

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign announced the endorsement of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on Saturday in a statement ahead of a campaign appearance at a Detroit church with Black voters.

Kilpatrick’s name was listed among a few dozen Black leaders who had endorsed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s bid to return to the White House in a statement announcing the formation of a Black Americans for Trump coalition.

Andy Shaver, a candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives, raises his hands in prayer during the convocation before a roundtable discussion featuring former President Donald Trump. (Katy Kildee/The Detroit News/TNS)

Kilpatrick, whose sentence was commuted by Trump before he left office in January 2021, was briefly quoted in the announcement as a former mayor and state representative.

“I can never thank President Trump enough for what he’s done for me and my family by giving me freedom,” Kilpatrick said. “But I believe this election and the issues involved are personal to every family and every person in America.”

Kilpatrick, who was sentenced in 2013 on two dozen criminal counts of using his positions as mayor and state representative to carry out a decade-long criminal racket, also attended Trump’s rally in Saginaw County last month.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable discussion on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at 180 Church in Detroit. (Katy Kildee/The Detroit News/TNS)

At the time, Kilpatrick declined to say who he’d vote for in November, but told The Detroit News he wouldn’t be voting for incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden. Kilpatrick is a longtime Democratic politician and was mayor of Detroit from 2002 until his resignation in September 2008 in the wake of a City Hall scandal that eventually led to his conviction in federal court in a wide-ranging corruption scandal.

Trump spoke Saturday afternoon at 180 Church on Stansbury Avenue on Detroit’s west side. The event was designed to try to help Trump cut into Biden’s base of support among Black voters in Detroit, the nation’s largest Black American majority city.

“He’s been the worst president for Black people,” Trump said of Biden.

During the event, Lorenzo Sewell, pastor of 180 Church, asked Trump how to keep the “Black dollar in the Black community” in order to foster entrepreneurship within the community.

From left, U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, Detroit business owner Itasha Dotson, former President Donald Trump and Detroit resident Carlos Chambers are seated before participating in a roundtable discussion on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at 180 Church in Detroit. (Katy Kildee/The Detroit News/TNS)

The businessman-turned-politician said crime needs to be curbed in Detroit.

“If they stop the crime, they’re going to see more and more stores sprout,” Trump said.

Trump joined local Black leaders at a table in the front of the church’s sanctuary, where they discussed issues affecting Blacks and other people of color. U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Black Republican congressman from Florida, also participated in the discussion.

Omar Mitchell, the executive chef at Table No. 2, an upscale restaurant in downtown Detroit’s Greektown district, said “money was pumping” into Black, Hispanic and Arab communities when Trump was president from 2017 to January of 2021.

Carlos Chambers, a veteran and postal worker, criticized the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and asked Trump, should he return to office, not to allow military members to “walk around wearing red high heel shoes.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks before a roundtable featuring former President Donald Trump on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at 180 Church in Detroit. (Katy Kildee/The Detroit News/TNS)

“He does have a point,” Trump responded and later added, “Our soldiers are real soldiers. They’re not going woke.”

Trump also was to speak Saturday evening at a conservative political organization’s convention at Huntington Place, the city’s riverfront convention center where four years ago Republicans protested and chanted “stop the count” on the day after the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election as Detroiters’ absentee ballots were still being tallied.

Trump’s visit was preempted Friday by a news conference where Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and some Detroiters criticized the former president’s record in Detroit and among Black voters.

“We cannot take a step backwards into a Trump reality that is so narrowly focused on everybody but us,” Gilchrist said.

The Biden-Harris campaign also released a statement from longtime pastor James Perkins of the Greater Christ Baptist Church ahead of Trump’s roundtable event at 180 Church.

“Donald Trump has the nerve to waltz into our city and act like he wants to understand the struggles Black Detroiters face, but the reality is he doesn’t care,” Perkins said in the statement. “Every time Trump opens his mouth to talk to Black folks, he demonizes us, insults us, and makes empty promises he’ll never keep. “

But several speakers ahead of Trump’s visit told those in the crowd at 180 Church that Democrats had long taken the Black vote for granted.

U.S. Rep. John James, a Republican and Michigan’s only Black congressman, ticked off the number of elected officials who were Democratic and white, alleging their interest was not with the Black community, but with any vote that could help them hold the levers of power.

“Trump is only a threat to liberal elites who want to keep their power and they know it,” said James, who represents southern Macomb County and Rochester and Rochester Hills in Oakland County.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a Detroit native, said the president represents a “substantial threat to the status quo.”

Census data indicate Detroit, Michigan’s largest city and a longtime Democratic stronghold, is 78% Black. Biden’s 51%-48% victory in Michigan over Trump in 2020 and was aided by getting 240,936 votes in Detroit, defeating Trump there, 94%-5%.

Biden’s campaign has prioritized outreach in Detroit amid reports of lagging enthusiasm among Black voters. The president spoke at the NAACP Detroit Branch’s 69th annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner at Huntington Place on May 19 and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at a Michigan Democratic Party fundraiser at Huntington Place earlier this month.

But Trump also has sought inroads with African American voters in his third run for the White House. The former president urged Michigan Republicans in March to reach out to Black voters in Detroit and other areas with predominantly Black populations in the state, the Associated Press reported.


© 2024 The Detroit News

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