MIAMI — When Cesar Sayoc appears in a federal court in Miami on Monday, facing 48 years for allegedly mailing explosive devices, one of his intended targets will be just 10 miles away campaigning on behalf of fellow Democrats.
That juxtaposition was not lost on the wife of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum as she welcomed California Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential 2020 presidential hopeful, to a campaign field office Sunday afternoon.
“She could have told us no from the beginning. But she especially could have told us no after this week when somebody from our state threatened her,” R. Jai Gillum told campaign volunteers here as Harris looked on.
Monday’s rally with both Gillums will be the third public event Harris has held in South Florida. Advisors said there was never any question about whether she would carry on with her schedule even after the FBI linked a suspicious package sent to Harris’ Sacramento office to Sayoc.
And, when asked what she thought about appearing in the same city as Sayoc, Harris stayed focused on her midterm message.
“That we need to pay attention to this election, which as of tomorrow will be seven days away. And make sure that everyone gets out and votes because some of the most incredible issues that are going to affect us in our every day lives are going to be at play in this election,” she told NBC News. “
That’s what I’m going to be thinking about. That’s what I’ve been thinking about. That is occupying a lot of my thought.”
Earlier on Sunday, Harris appeared at a house of worship with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is locked in a tight re-election battle in the state. After addressing the congregation at Bethel Church, she offered her prayers for the victims of Saturday’s massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which she called a “tragic, hateful incident.”
“It was fueled by hate. And there’s no room for that in our country,” she said. “We cannot tolerate in our country these kinds of acts of violence that are fueled by hate. And it’s time to stop.”
Harris noted that she serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has now spent nearly two years investigating Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 elections.
“The Russians figured out that America’s Achilles heel is this kind of hate. And that’s what they chose to then use to manipulate the American public around the election of the president of the United States,” she said.
“Let’s recognize, this is one of our Achilles heels. We have to speak truth about the fact that racism exists in our country, anti-Semitism exists in our country. We need to speak truth about that and deal with it. Because it’s not reflective of who we really are and who the majority.”
Asked if she felt the president recognized what his rhetoric may be playing in this toxic environment, Harris said she “can’t begin to assume” what he thinks.
Later, she said there were many powerful voices sowing hate and division.
“I think it’s irresponsible. And it is harmful to who we are as a country,” she said. “It is incumbent on leaders to remind people of that instead of provoking people to figure out and point at differences. Because we’re all invested in the future of this country equal.”