James stops at farm to resume in-person campaign for Senate
By DAVID EGGERT
HANOVER TOWNSHIP — U.S. Senate candidate John James began an in-person tour of Michigan Monday, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, visiting a Jackson County farm to criticize what he called the over-regulation and over-taxation of farmers.
The challenger to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters had been gearing up for a more visible, public schedule when the coronavirus struck in March. He appeared with Vice President Mike Pence last week and President Donald Trump in May.
“I actually want to get out and see the entire state. It’s a big state, and there is a lot of opportunity to see the parallels and how similar we are — whether you’re on a farm or a factory,” James said at Weir Farms, a dairy operation in Hanover Township about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Detroit.
“You still have people who are responsible for running small businesses who need help, who need support and haven’t been getting it from Sen. Peters.”
James plans to visit counties with some of the country’s highest unemployment rates on the tour, which will last for an indefinite period. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been gradually reopening Michigan, which was an early COVID-19 hot spot and had the third-highest jobless rate in the U.S. in May after restrictions were imposed to curb the virus.
James kept the event limited to a small number of farmers, employees and Farm Bureau leaders who showed him around before he took questions from the media. In southern Michigan, outdoor gatherings are capped at 100 participants.
“We have to respect the health and safety of everyone around us by being responsible and making sure that we reopen in a safe but sensible manner,” said James, an executive at his family’s automotive logistics company in Detroit who said both the state and nation were unprepared for the health and economic crises.
“I believe it is incumbent upon all of us. We always put people before politics, and it would break my heart if somebody got sick because they were attending a political event. We’re doing our best to listen to the experts, also to listen to people around. We’re engaging,” he said.
The Michigan Democratic Party said James supports Trump’s agenda, including “erratic” trade wars that have threatened the livelihoods of farmers. Peters’ spokeswoman Vanessa Valdivia accused James of trying to run his platform on the first-term senator’s accomplishments.
“Gary’s led and helped pass multiple pieces of legislation to support small businesses — from increasing the Small Business Association’s funding to support Michigan businesses, to helping small businesses protect their innovations using patents,” she said. Peters, like James, largely has been doing virtual events but this month attended a Black Lives Matter protest hosted by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s reelection campaign and visited some Detroit businesses.
James, who is Black and flew Army helicopters in the Iraq War, said he is open to renaming Army bases honoring Confederate officers — an effort Trump opposes.
“I believe we need to be very careful to fix what we can without rewriting our history,” he said. “The Confederacy lost, but the damage caused by slavery in the Confederacy must never be forgotten unless we repeat it. As far as I’m concerned, if the military wants to rename its bases it’s fine by me. The most important thing on those bases are the people.”
James said he is “intrinsically motivated” to end racial injustice, “walking around in black skin and raising three Black boys. I’ve recognized this my entire life. Sen. Gary Peters has been in position to do something to fix the system, and he’s been a part of the system for 30 years.”
Peters’ campaign noted his moves to address racial inequities, including backing multiple bills designed to improve policing in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
He also previously helped introduce legislation that would create a national commission to assess the criminal justice system for the first time since the 1960s.
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