In St. Cloud, Vice President Kamala Harris thanks workers making electric buses
Harris was in St. Cloud as part of an on-going promotion of electric vehicles by the Biden administration
ST. CLOUD — Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday, Feb. 9, visited the New Flyer of America facility in St. Cloud, thanking workers at the company, which manufactures buses that run on electric and compressed natural gas.
"We know we still have a lot of work to do," Harris told the crowd of about 500. "Union leadership and workers are building our nation."
This was the vice president's first visit to St. Cloud, and her remarks echoed those of President Joe Biden's during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
"Everyone knows buses are our nation's most popular form of public transportation," Harris said. "Diesel exhaust is a poison ... diesel exhaust is also a greenhouse gas. Every year gas-powered buses add millions of tons of pollution to our atmosphere which further accelerates [the] climate crisis."
Harris pointed to the buses as a solution. "Everybody here knows electric buses do not produce exhaust. They are healthier for people, cleaner for communities, and better for our planet."
She also pointed at the potential job growth that the administration as well as other democrats expect out of electric vehicles.
Harris closed her speech after mentioning that, in 2009, Biden as vice president under President Barack Obama visited the New Flyer facility. She quoted from his speech that “this company is an example of the future.
“A lot has changed but one thing has not. You are still an example of America’s future," Harris said. "Here in St. Cloud you are not only building better buses, you are building a better America.”
Other speakers at New Flyer Thursday included St Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, New Flyer official Margaret Lewis and others.
Kleis took part of his speech welcoming Harris to promote one of his own agenda for the city. “I know a lot of you have been waiting a while but that is not the vice president’s fault, it’s the fact that we don’t have a (Mississippi) river crossing that would take you earlier. We need a bridge … just a little shout out for a federal legislative issue that we might have at some point.”
Ellison, meanwhile, praised the work of the current presidential administration. “The Biden-Harris administration economic agenda is generating a manufacturing boom in clean energy, semiconductors, infrastructure, and that means union high paying jobs!”
Minnesota Republicans responded Thursday morning to Harris' appearance.
House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, and other House Republicans used the visit as an opportunity to criticize a 100% clean energy bill signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz earlier this week, as well as call for the federal government to allow copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota.
“Democrats in the state of Minnesota are not helping energy to be reliable, affordable or safe, as the governor had signed in the clean energy, or what we have referred to as the ‘blackout bill’ earlier this week,” Demuth said.
Rep. Spencer Igo, R-Wabana Township, who represents the western part of Minnesota’s Iron Range, said his region could provide nickel and other minerals for electric vehicles if the federal government allowed new mines to move forward.
“But the Biden administration has been bent on making sure that we can not use those critical minerals,” Igo said at the news conference, later adding: “We can't be reliant on the world around us to build out and be leaders. We want to be leaders. It's investing in Minnesota, it's investing in the United States. The Biden administration and the Walz administration are failing Minnesotans.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Harris visited students at Georgia Tech in Atlanta as part of a two-day swing after Biden's State of the Union address. During that speech, Biden made mention of the infrastructure law passed in November 2021 which includes funding to help build a national network of EV charging stations and more than $7 billion to support the U.S. battery supply chain.
The Inflation Reduction Act also holds provisions aimed at increasing domestic manufacturing of EVs and batteries, including manufacturing tax credits for battery cells and modules produced in the U.S. and federal incentives for vehicle buyers. Biden referred to the legislation as "the most significant investment ever" to address climate change in his speech.
In the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump had the edge over the Biden-Harris ticket in Stearns County with 60% of the vote to the Democrats' 38%. Central Minnesota counties also went to Trump in 2020 with similar or greater margins.
Despite the lack of support that was given to her and Biden in 2020, a crowd of hundreds — union factory workers, community members, local politicians and others — welcomed the vice president to St. Cloud with thunderous applause as she walked toward the podium between two parked electric buses with an American flag between them.
Other notable visits
There have been other notable visits to St. Cloud besides the visits to New Flyer by Biden in 2009, and now Harris.
In 2012, former President Bill Clinton spoke at a campaign rally for President Barack Obama at the Atwood Memorial Ballroom on the campus of St. Cloud State University. In 2004, President George W. Bush held a campaign rally at Dick Putz Field at the Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud.
Other notable visits to the St. Cloud area included then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1986, campaigning for U.S. House member Arlan Stangeland; and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 while making a presidential campaign stop.
Former vice president and Minnesota native Walter Mondale campaigned for U.S. House candidate Marv Hanson in 1988. Nelson Rockefeller visited St. Cloud State University in 1975 for a Minnesota Republican Convention.
Presidents Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt made train stops in Empire Park in the late 1800s and early 1900s before an apartment complex was constructed in that spot.
Reporters Stephanie Dickrell in St. Cloud and Alex Derosier in St. Paul contributed to this report.