LORDSTOWN — Gov. Mike DeWine said he’s purposely avoiding attending Thursday’s public introduction of the Endurance, the all-electric pickup truck by Lordstown Motors Corp., because of the viral outbreak.
Instead, the Republican and Lt. Gov. John Husted will get their first look today at the truck and tour where it will be produced, the former General Motors assembly plant.
“Quite candidly throughout this pandemic, Fran (DeWine’s wife) and I have avoided crowds, so we’re not going to do that,” DeWine said Tuesday.
DeWine said Thursday is a “big day for the Mahoning Valley” and he’s “been very supportive” of the company, which acquired the plant in November from GM after it closed the facility in March 2019, ending 54 years of automaking there by the company.
DeWine will address the media at 3 p.m.
He had words of support Tuesday for how Vice President Mike Pence — who will attend the highly anticipated debut, tour the plant and deliver brief remarks Thursday — and President Donald Trump have handled the pandemic. He apologized for not seeing the vice president, to whom he talks regularly, along with other governors, about COVID-19.
Asked if he wanted Pence to wear a mask at Thursday’s event, DeWine said: “I’ve not communicated that to the vice president, no. I made my position pretty clear about wearing masks, particularly, you know, it depends on how close people are together. When people are out in public, it’s certainly the safe thing to do. But I’m not going to tell the vice president what to do. This is how we all kind of stay safe and help each other.”
Pence and Trump largely have not worn masks in public. Trump recently said some people are wearing masks to show their disapproval of him and not to protect others.
DeWine and Husted will meet with a small group of Lordstown Motors executives and get a first look at the truck. The visit, according to the governor’s office, will abide by safety and and social-distancing guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health.
Expected to join Pence is U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, according to Lordstown Motors.
Earlier this year, Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns reportedly met with Brouillette in Washington, D.C., to discuss a loan application from the energy department for $200 million to help repurpose the massive plant to make electric vehicles.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, was leading a 10-person group of bipartisan Ohio lawmakers urging the department approve the application should it be filed.
Trump suggested in his budget proposal in February the program be eliminated, drawing the ire of Ryan for what it could mean for Lordstown Motors’ future.
The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, created in 2008 to foster development of fuel-efficient vehicles, made billions in loans to Ford, Nissan and Tesla.
The public launch, which is expected to be shown on Lordstown Motors’ YouTube channel, is scheduled to start at noon.
Ryan on Tuesday was warm to Pence’s visit and called for a commitment from the administration to fund fully the loan program, for federal research and development of electric vehicle technologies and support for consumer tax credits for people who buy an electric vehicle.
“Most importantly, what we need from the administration is a commitment — and the resources to back it up — to invest in building America’s dominance in electric vehicles,” Ryan said.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and the Ohio Democratic Party weren’t as welcoming of Pence, calling the event merely a “photo op” at the site GM closed, abandoning thousands of workers with no action from the administration.
“Trump told the people of the Mahoning Valley, ‘Don’t move, don’t sell your house,’ but for thousands of workers, they had to do just that,” said Chairman David Pepper said. “Donald Trump has broken one promise after another, and working Ohioans are paying the price.”
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