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In Florida campaign stops, Kamala Harris encourages voters to cast early ballots

Democratic vice presidential candidate visits Jacksonville, Orlando on state’s first day of early voting

The democratic vice-presidential nominee emphasizing the need to vote in the river city.
The democratic vice-presidential nominee emphasizing the need to vote in the river city.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, returned to the campaign trail this week after a brief absence when people connected with her team tested positive for the coronavirus.

She resumed her travel on Monday, which marked the first day of early voting in much of Florida, a critical swing state.

She kicked off her return with a car rally in Orlando and later made an appearance in Jacksonville. Both events in Florida were geared toward getting people to vote.

At the University of North Florida, Harris participated in a voter mobilization event attended by carloads of people.

“Early voting is so important for a number of reasons. I mean, people have busy lives, so many pressures -- especially now -- so it’s a good way to just get out the way,” Harris told News4Jax after the event in Jacksonville. “We want to encourage people to vote early to also make they’ve got it done and they feel like they can move on but that their voice is heard.”

Watch: Kent Justice’s interview with Sen. Kamala Harris

News4Jax's Kent Justice interviews Sen. Kamala Harris after an event Monday in Jacksonville.
News4Jax's Kent Justice interviews Sen. Kamala Harris after an event Monday in Jacksonville.

She also stopped at the Highlands branch of the Jacksonville Public Library to greet people casting early ballots.

“It is so important,” she told the voters. “Thank you for voting early.”

The Democratic ticket is largely forgoing traditional campaign rallies because of the risk of spreading the virus but Harris was energized as she bounded onto the outdoor stage in Orlando earlier Monday, dancing and shouting greetings to the crowd as they honked their horns in support.

She largely stuck to the campaign message of outlining President Donald Trump’s failures in tackling the pandemic

“So what we know is this: Back in January, the current occupant of the White House knew he had inside information. He knew that this virus was five times more deadly than the flu. He knew it would impact the children of America. He knew it was airborne. But what did he do? He kept that information to himself. I call it a cover-up," Harris said. "Can you imagine if you all knew, if we knew on Jan. 28 what he knew? Can you imagine what parents and families and each of us might have been able to do to prepare for this?”

Harris urged people to cast their ballots early, telling the crowd: "You will be the first to put our country back on the right track.''

“Everything is on the ballot in 2020,” Harris said.

News4Jax, the only local media outlet to interview Harris on Monday in Jacksonville, asked how that relates to potentially packing the Supreme Court.

Harris said she is more concerned that a stimulus package for people who are hurting during the pandemic is being held up in Congress.

“What we would do is bring relief to people who found themselves among the 30 million who are unemployed in just the last several months in our country, but instead they’re trying to ram through a nominee onto the Supreme Court for political reasons instead of doing the work of helping the American people who are struggling right now,” Harris said.

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks with News4Jax's Kent Justice on Monday in Jacksonville. (WJXT)

Trump’s campaign calls Harris too progressive. She told News4Jax Trump’s policies only work for the richest people.

“I believe that we need to improve our public students and public education in America, and that’s about doing what we’re going to do to increase and triple Title One funding, so that public schools, especially those in the hardest-hit communities get the resources they need,” Harris said. “I believe we need to invest in infrastructure and that’s gonna be about millions of jobs. Donald Trump said he would do it and never did. Joe Biden and I will do that.”

The Trump campaign issued a statement about Harris’s visit to Florida.

Harris halted travel Thursday after her communications director and a member of the flight crew for her travel tested positive for the virus. The campaign said Harris did not need to quarantine under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, but she paused travel for four days.

Harris said she has repeatedly tested negative for the virus.

Vice President Mike Pence is headed back to Florida this weekend, with stops planned in Tallahassee and Jacksonville this upcoming weekend.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.