On Martin Luther King Day, California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris announced that she will be running for president in 2020.
Harris, 54, chose to launch her full scale campaign on that day to honor the legacies of two of her heroes. Forty-seven years ago this week, Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman ever to run for president, launched her campaign. And Martin Luther King Jr. has been a role model for Harris throughout her life in what she views as his “aspirational fight for progress.” Harris is the first African-American woman to announce a run for the White House in 2020, and the fourth woman in the field.
The theme of Harris’ presidential campaign will be “For the people.’” Her campaign’s logo and color scheme draw inspiration from Miss Chisholm’s 1972 presidential bid.
-Who Is Kamala Harris?-
Kamala Devi Harris was born October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California. Her mother was from India and her father was Jamaican. Reared in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Berkeley, she was brought to civil rights demonstrations as a toddler and sang in a Baptist choir. Her mother also ensured that Harris and her younger sister, Maya, maintained ties to their Indian heritage by raising them with Hindu beliefs and taking them to her home country every couple of years. Harris’ parents divorced when she was seven years old.
After attending Howard University and the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, she embarked on a rise through the California legal system, emerging as state attorney general in 2010. Following the November 2016 elections, Harris became just the second African-American woman and the first South Asian American to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Harris married lawyer Douglas Emhoff on August 22, 2014, in Santa Barbara, California. She is the stepmother of his two children. “My entire career has been focused on keeping people safe. It is probably one of the things that motivates me more than anything else. And when I look at this moment in time, I know that the American people deserve to have someone who is going to fight for them,” she stated.
Harris recently published a memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, that dove into many of the messages she is expected to focus on during her campaign.
According to a Harris aide, her priorities in the campaign will be addressing the cost of living, pushing for a more just society, expanding access to better quality of life and restoring dignity and responsibility to public office. Issues like immigration, education and criminal justice reform are expected to feature prominently in her agenda.
However in recent weeks, Harris has faced criticism from some on the left about her record as a district attorney in San Francisco and later as California’s attorney general. In a widely shared New York Times op-ed, law professor Lara Bazelon called Harris a “regressive” prosecutor who was often on “the wrong side of history” on the matter of criminal justice reform, as well as someone who “fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful” convictions in California.
A prominent Bay Area activist accused the senator on Twitter of “terrorizing Black communities” by working to strengthen the state’s prison system.
In her first press conference as a presidential candidate on Monday, Harris said she took responsibility for decisions she made a prosecutor and expressed regret for not being able to do more in certain cases she was involved in.
“I can tell you of the cases where I really regret that we were not able to charge somebody that molested a child but the evidence wasn’t there. There are cases … where there were folks who made a decision in my office who did not consult with me and I wish they had. But again, I take full responsibility for those decisions,” Harris said at Howard University, her alma mater.
But Harris made no apologies about her career, stating that “there is a lot about what I did as a prosecutor that I’m proud of,” including starting a first-in-the-nation program that offered first-time nonviolent offenders a chance to have their charges dismissed if they completed vocational training. “There are fundamental flaws in the criminal justice system and … this criminal justice system needs to be reformed,” she said.
She has also responded to questions about her decision to defend California’s choice to deny sexual reassignment surgery to a trans inmate. She said she was obligated to defend the state’s positions as attorney general and that “unfortunately” she was sometimes forced to take stances “contrary to my beliefs.” …“But the bottom line is the buck stops with me, and I take full responsibility for what my office did,” Harris said.
-More Criticism from the Left-
Black Agenda Report writer Margaret Kimberly in her Freedom Rider column questions whether Harris deserves Black support.
She writes in part: “As attorney general Harris opposed legislation that would have required her office to investigate police shootings. When California was ordered to reduce prison overcrowding she argued against it. …In her memoir, These Truths We Hold: An American Journey, she says of mass incarceration, ‘I wanted to tear it down,’ but the facts say otherwise.”
“One of her more disgraceful policies was to victim shame Black mothers for their children’s school truancy. They were fined and when most of them could not pay, were put in jail and separated from their children….Harris cannot be given a pass.”
“…Harris has spent her career locking up Black and Brown people. She should not be allowed to shake hands, kiss babies or walk into Black churches without being taken to task. We have seen this movie and we know how it ends. A Black candidate with all the right credentials makes the case for race pride but the people end up with nothing to show for their adoration.”
Harris is the latest high-profile Democrat to declare her intention to run against President Donald Trump in 2020. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), along with former Obama Cabinet member Julián Castro and Reps. John Delaney (Md.) and Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), are running as well.
The 2020 field is expected to get more crowded in the coming weeks, with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as well as former Vice President Joe Biden, among the speculated entrants.
A recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist Poll found that a majority of Americans — 54 percent — have not yet formed an opinion of Harris. But those who have a positive opinion of the California Democrat outnumbered those with a negative opinion by more than 3 to 1.
(Story Compiled from Various News Sources)