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From our State Capitol in Lansing to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, WKAR is committed to explaining how the actions of lawmakers are affecting Michiganders. Political and government reporter Abigail Censky leads this section. There are also stories from Capitol correspondents Cheyna Roth, Rick Pluta and the Associated Press. As the 2020 presidential race begins, look here for reports on the role Michigan will play in electing or re-electing the president.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Returns To Michigan, Vies To Convert Trump Voters

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, presidential candidate
Abigail Censky
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand talks with a voter in Bloomfield Hills. She was here as part of her "broken promises" bus tour. Gillibrand also visited Flint and Lansing.

New York Senator and Democratic 2020 hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand returned to Michigan Friday. She talked to activists in Bloomfield Hills, toured Flint with Mayor Karen Weaver, and ended the day with supporters in Lansing. WKAR’s Abigail Censky was with the Senator all day Friday and joined WKAR’s Morning Edition Host Mary Ellen Pitney to talk about Senator Gillibrand’s “Broken Promises” bus tour.

WKAR's Abigail Censky speaks with presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Interview Highlights

“Broken Promises”

“‘Before she came, she took out a TV ad on three issues, 1) manufacturing jobs, 2) prescription drug prices, and 3) infrastructure. But she really didn't talk about those things outside of her stump speech. She began her day here in Michigan, talking to a couple hundred folks at a Unitarian Church in Bloomfield Hills. Then she toured the Flint Water plant and small businesses in Flint with Mayor Karen Weaver, and she ended the night talking to about 100 people at the Lansing Brewing Company. When I asked her on the bus, ‘Why pick these places and these specific issues? This is what she had to say:’ Those are very progressive issues. But these are the issues that President Trump lied about. So, this tour is about the lies he made to lure in those voters, to convince them that he wasn't so bad. So, the reason I picked these issues are because these are direct lies he made to communities in Michigan, in Ohio and in Pennsylvania.”

Gillibrand’s choice to center the tour around issues that moderate and swing voters find more palatable like manufacturing jobs, prescription drug prices and infrastructure was on brand for her “broken promises” theme.

The President has largely defaulted on his promises to retain manufacturing jobs in the industrial Midwest in communities like Youngstown, OH—which Gillibrand visited on the tour.

General Motors announced its plans to shut down the plant near Youngstown earlier this year, leaving workers with the choice to relocate to jobs in other states or lose their jobs entirely.

However, Gillibrand didn’t focus on those issues in her visit in Michigan on Friday outside of her stump speech. Instead, she focused on gun reform in Bloomfield Hills and framed her visit to Flint through the lens of white privilege which had netted her viral media content earlier in the tour.

The Senator also chose to visit exclusively blue Michigan counties in her second visit to Michigan. While the State of Michigan as a whole voted for President Donald Trump, his victory was secured by just 10,704 votes.

The counties the Senator visited voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016: Oakland County and Genesee Counties by over 50% and Ingham County by over 60%.

Blue-State Democrat Sees A Path To Victory In Trump Country

“So, I keep winning that upstate district and winning the votes in the red and purple places in my state. I just won back 18 counties that went to Trump. So, I already know that I am a progressive leader on ending gun violence, on comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, on jobs in the economy, on the Green New Deal, on women's rights on LGBTQ equality, on legalization, decriminalization of marijuana on criminal justice reform. I have led and I know having led on all those issues. I still win in the red purple places.”

One of Gillibrand’s big applause lines in her stump speech is that she’s won a “2:1 Republican District, twice.” That’s referencing the 20th District of New York which she represented in Congress as a U.S. Representative beginning in 2006.

Gillibrand touts that she won the 20th district running on progressive democratic platform policies like Medicare for All and still managed to flip the district.

However, what she neglects to mention, is at that time she had received an ‘A-rating’ from the National Rifle Association and held substantially more conservative views on immigration. Since 2006, the Senator’s views have changed and she’s become substantially more liberal.

Donate or Die

“This is a real symptom of such a large democratic field. I think people appreciate having mean the number of choices they do, but it means it's harder for candidates like Kirsten Gillibrand to stand out. voters are beginning to notice that they have to donate to Democrats who may not be front runners, but that they'd still like to see drive the debate forward on certain issues. Candidates like Kirsten Gillibrand, survival in this field depends upon people donating at this point of the race, if they're going to continue to hang in there.”

Consistently polling between zero and one percent in national polls, Gillibrand’s chances to stay in the large field of Democratic candidates are imperiled without a significant boost in polling or individual donations. Presently, the Senator is struggling to gain a foothold with voters.

Per the qualifications the Democratic National Committee has set, Gillibrand has not yet qualified for the third debate in September. Her long-term candidacy depends on increasing name ID with voters, and getting more individual donations.

Follow Abigail Censky on Twitter :@AbigailCensky

Abigail Censky reported on Politics & Government at WKAR from 2018 to 2021. Now, she reports for The Colorado Springs Gazette and edits for The Catalyst Newspaper.
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