California Senator Kamala Harris officially kicked off her campaign over the weekend in her hometown, drawing a crowd of over 20,000 people to her rally in Oakland. She joins the most diverse pool of Democratic candidates in history. There are more women running for the Democratic nomination than ever before, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Tulsi Gabbard, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Harris is also bringing more ethnic diversity to the table as a black woman of Indian and Jamaican heritage (only the second black woman to ever serve as a U.S. senator), joining Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, and Andrew Yang as the fourth non-Caucasian candidate on the ticket.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 21, 2019
Harris struck a progressive and populist tone in her campaign kickoff and was not timid in criticizing the current administration for supporting policies and positions that she felt were un-American. “When white supremacists march and murder in Charlottesville or massacre innocent worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, that’s not our America. When we have children in cages crying for their mothers and fathers, don’t you dare call that border security, that’s a human rights abuse!” She also expressed her support for Medicare for all, the movement to combat climate change, universal pre-K, and creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
No Corporate PAC Money for Kamala Harris 2020
The senator vowed to preserve the institutions of democracy that she feels are under attack. She is one of several candidates to have pledged not to take corporate campaign donations. “We’re all supposed to have an equal vote, but money has now really tipped the balance between an individual having equal power in an election to a corporation,” she said in a radio interview last spring.
To really put the power in the hands of the people, though, she will have to develop a small donor base. “What we really need from candidates is reliance on small donations,” said Benjamin Page, a researcher who is critical of presidential hopefuls who take the anti-corporate PAC leap. “Refusing to take corporate PAC money makes a nice symbol,” he explained in an interview with The Intercept. “But far more money comes from wealthy individuals.” As of now, Senator Warren is the only candidate whose campaign is anchored by small donor contributions.
Critics from the Left and Right
As a strong front-runner, Harris will need to fend off criticism from both side of the aisle. Progressive critics take issue with Harris’s prosecutorial record that supported measures that disproportionately harm people of color and low-income families. She also failed to hold corrupt attorneys accountable for falsifying the transcript of a defendant’s confession in order to make him eligible for life in prison.
The Republican National Committee has come out on the offensive against Harris’s campaign in an attempt to paint her as an elite California politician that has no chance of unseating President Trump. “It’s fitting that Harris chose the most liberal district in deep-blue California to launch her campaign. Government-run health care, weaker borders and higher taxes might be popular there, but her liberal policies are totally out-of-step with most Americans,” read a statement from the RNC.
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Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., often invokes her East Bay upbringing as the child of civil-rights activists to explain her political philosophy. At a rally Sunday in her hometown of Oakland, she officially launched her presidential campaign by tapping those same populist themes. Before an estimated 20,000 people who filled the streets around an American flag-draped Frank Ogawa Plaza, Harris made her opening 2020 pitch: She will be the candidate who is both “a fighter for the people” and someone who can unite a country severed into partisan corners by saying that “we must seek truth, speak truth and fight for the truth.” ~ 📷: @scottstrazzante @gabrielleluriephoto @yoshijames ~ More 🇺🇸 pics: @sfchronicle_photos ~ Read more: bit.ly/harrisoakland ~ #KamalaHarris #Harris2020 #Kamala2020 #KamalaHarris2020 #Oakland #rally
Conservative media outlets are already muckraking, writing about Harris’s extramarital relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Brown addressed these two-decades-old allegations by saying, “So what?” In a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown said that he and Harris had dated in the past and that he had helped propel her political career, but that he had done that for many other politicians in the past as well. “The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I “so much as jaywalked” while she was D.A.”