Native Bay Area senator launches presidential campaign in Oakland
The Santa Clara
February 7, 2019
Standing tall behind a podium in front of thousands of people in her hometown of Oakland, Sen. Kamala Harris officially initiated her 2020 campaign to run for president.
Last week’s announcement came after months of rumors that the outspoken, first-term California senator would be a contender in the 2020 election.
“We are here because the American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before,” Harris said at the Sunday, Jan. 27 event.
Santa Clara sophomore and political science and communication double major Ciara Moezidis attended Harris’ campaign announcement with fellow members of the club Ignite. Moezidis is trying to reimplement Ignite, a former Registered Student Organization geared toward women in politics, after inactivity for over a year.
“A part of Ignite is going to political events,” Moezidis said. “The club is non-partisan but we are just trying to take any opportunity to go and get politically active.”
She says that even without the club, she would have gone anyway because Harris is a woman of color from the Bay Area, just like Moezidis.
“I got five of us from Santa Clara to get in a car and drive up to Oakland,” Moezidis said. “The lines were insane—you had to stand in line for hours just to get to the front.”
Also in attendance at the event was Shelly Bailes and her wife Ellen Pontac, longtime gay rights activists and strong supporters of Harris.
“We love to show up at places and show support,” Bailes said. “Even though there were 20,000 plus people there, we were glad to be two of them.”
Bailes and her wife were one of the first couples to get married in California when the state legalized gay marriage in June 2008—in fact, they got married the minute it became legal in the state.
One of the reasons Bailes supports Harris is because of her defense of gay marriage in light of Proposition 8, which retracted California’s legalization of gay marriage in November 2008 but was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in 2010.
“When Prop 8 was finally overturned, [lawmakers] said people couldn’t get married for 30 days,” Bailes said. “Kamala said, ‘No way, these people have been waiting to get married,’ and she overturned that rule and that brought us to love her even more.”
Harris spent her early years in politics serving San Francisco as the city’s District Attorney. During her time as D.A., the overall felony conviction rate rose to 67 percent, the highest in decades.
After seven years as D.A., Harris broke barriers by becoming the first female, as well as the first African-American and first Indian-American Attorney General of California. As Attorney General, Harris focused on issues like prison reform and children’s justice.
Moezidis says that the most impactful part of Harris’s Oakland campaign launch was how she refrained from putting down other politicians as she laid out her principles.
“She wasn’t bashing the conservative ideologies and specifically the current administration,” Moezidis said. “Instead she said, ‘This is the status quo and here’s how we can rise from it.’”
Harris became a California senator in 2017 and has been open about her distaste for many of President Trump’s decisions.
She garnered a lot of attention from the news media during then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last September.
Throughout her five-minute exchange with Kavanaugh, Harris repeatedly asked Kavanaugh the same question when she felt he had avoided giving her a straightforward answer.
An example of this was her reiteration of the question of whether Kavanaugh would call for the White House to authorize an FBI investigation into his case.
Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign comes with promises to focus on unification of the country rather than increasing the partisan divide.
“If I have the honor of being your president, I will tell you this: I am not perfect. Lord knows, I am not perfect,” Harris said at her campaign launch. “But I will always speak with decency and moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity and I will speak the truth.”
Although Harris has yet to highlight specific issues she wants to tackle, her long history of working on criminal justice reform is expected to play a large role in her campaign.
Harris joins a growing list of progressive Democrats planning to run in the 2020 election including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, former Maryland Representative John Delaney and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard.
In the days following her campaign announcement, Harris was doing well in national polls, according to a New York Magazine article published on Monday.
The article references national polls taken by Political and Monmouth, which show Harris in third place behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders—two candidates who aren’t officially in the race yet.
“She’s a real human being,” Bailes said about Harris. “She shows that she’s a human every time we see her. She’s so sweet and so regular compared to what we have.”
While some of the campaign launch attendees are sure of their support for Harris more than a year and a half out from the 2020 elections, others are still testing the waters.
“I’m not sure who I’m supporting at the moment but I think that it’s really important to get educated right now since it’s still early on,” Moezidis said. “Given Kamala Harris is technically one of our own in California, I felt it was important to see where she was coming from, especially as a woman of color who offers a lot of different intersectional backgrounds that many people can appeal to.”
Contact Kimi Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.