Sen. Kamala Harris announces presidential bid while N.H. wonders

  • FILE- In this Sept. 6, 2018, file photo Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens as President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, answers her question during the third day of Kavanaugh's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Harris, a first-term senator and former California attorney general known for her rigorous questioning of President Donald Trump’s nominees, entered the Democratic presidential race on Monday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) Jacquelyn Martin

  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., greets the audience at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., last week. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 1/21/2019 6:01:36 PM

California Sen. Kamala Harris jumped onto the national stage Monday with a live announcement of her candidacy for president. In New Hampshire, though, the news came with more question marks than exclamation points.

The high-profile Democrat has yet to visit the Granite State, which for a century has held the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Instead, Harris is showing signs of building her campaign in other early voting states in her quest to become the first woman and the second African American to win the White House.

She plans a formal campaign launch in Oakland, Calif., on Jan. 27. But even before her formal launch, Harris heads on Friday to South Carolina, the first Southern state to vote in the primary and caucus calendar.

South Carolina, where black voters make up a majority of the Democratic primary electorate, is likely to figure heavily into Harris’s prospects. Harris campaigned in support of fellow Democrats in South Carolina in last year’s midterm elections. She also made stops in Iowa, which votes first in the race for the White House, and Nevada, which holds the first western contest.

While her team is interviewing potential hires in the Granite State, as of the publication of this article her campaign had yet to announce when she’d make her first visit to the state.

“We’d love to have Kamala Harris visit us in Rockingham County, N.H. We’re very welcoming,” Rockingham County Democrats chairman Larry Drake wrote on Twitter Monday.

But Drake told the Monitor that he hadn’t heard from Harris aides in recent days. That was also the case with a number of other leading Granite State Democrats the Monitor contacted.

Saint Anselm College political science professor Christopher Galdieri noted that Harris is “well known enough and will have enough resources to have a capability to scale up a campaign here very quickly.”

But he wondered whether the candidate would “hop over New Hampshire.”

University of New Hampshire political science professor noted that Harris would likely focus more efforts on Iowa than New Hampshire.

“There’s more open ground in Iowa. It doesn’t mean she’ll ignore New Hampshire, but will put more resources in Iowa,” he said.

Possibly playing in her favor is her home state of California, which has moved up its primary and will vote on Super Tuesday on March 3. With 225 delegates up for grabs that day, a strong showing by Harris could give her a boost over her rivals.

In a video released Monday in coordination with her announcement, the former California attorney general and first-term senator argued that the time has come to fight back against what she called the injustices of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Justice, decency, equality, freedom, democracy. These aren’t just words. They’re the values we as Americans cherish. And they’re all on the line now,” she declared.

Harris, who grew up in Oakland, is a daughter of parents from Jamaica and India.

Harris launched her presidential bid on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, as the nation marked what would have been the 90th birthday of the slain civil rights leader. The timing was a clear signal that Harris, who has joked that she had a “stroller’s-eye view” of the civil rights movement because her parents wheeled her and her sister to protests, sees herself as another leader in that fight.

The 54-year-old is portraying herself as a fighter for justice. On ABC, she cited her years as a prosecutor in asserting, “my entire career has been focused on keeping people safe. It is probably one of the things that motivates me more than anything else.”

Harris is likely to face questions about her law enforcement record, particularly after the Black Lives Matter movement and activists across the country pushed for a criminal justice overhaul. Harris’s prosecutorial record has recently come under new scrutiny after a blistering opinion piece in the New York Times criticized her repeated claim that she was a “progressive prosecutor,” focused on changing a broken criminal justice system from within.

Harris joins what is expected to be a wide-open race for the Democratic presidential nomination. There’s no apparent front-runner at this early stage and Harris will face off against several Senate colleagues.

Harris becomes the fourth woman to enter the White House race, joining Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota may also declare her candidacy.

Former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, who served as housing secretary under former president Barack Obama, recently declared his candidacy. And former vice president Joe Biden tops the list of other potential contenders who are seriously mulling presidential bids.

That list includes likely candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Cory Booker of New Jersey, who’s a fellow African American.

Harris aides and supporters say their candidate will stand apart. They point to her years as a prosecutor, from her beginnings in Alameda County trying sexual assault crimes and homicides, to her recent years in the Senate grilling Trump’s nominees, including then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

(This report includes information from the Associated Press.)




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