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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 February 2019

Democrat Kamala Harris opens presidential bid

First-term senator and former California attorney general entered the Democratic presidential race on Monday

Kamala Harris said on Monday that she will run for US president. AP
Kamala Harris said on Monday that she will run for US president. AP

Kamala Harris, a first-term US senator and former California attorney general known for her rigorous questioning of President Donald Trump’s nominees, entered the Democratic presidential race on Monday.

Vowing to “bring our voices together”, Ms Harris would be the first woman to hold the presidency and the second African-American if she succeeds.

Ms Harris, who grew up in Oakland, California, and is a daughter of parents from Jamaica and India, is one of the earliest high-profile Democrats to join what is expected to be a crowded field. She made her long-anticipated announcement on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“I am running for president of the United States,” she said. “And I’m very excited about it.”

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Ms Harris, 54, portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign as she announced her bid. “They’re the values we as Americans cherish, and they’re all on the line now,” Ms Harris says in the video. “The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values.”

On ABC, she cited her years as a prosecutor, saying: “My entire career has been focused on keeping people safe. It is probably one of the things that motivates me more than anything else.”

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

She plans a formal campaign launch in Oakland on January 27. The campaign will be based in Baltimore, Maryland with a second office in Oakland.

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

Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have both launched exploratory committees. Three more senators, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are also looking at the race.

If Mr Booker enters the race, he and Ms Harris could find themselves competing for support from black voters.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic nomination, is also considering a campaign. Several other Democrats have already declared their intentions, including former Maryland Representative John Delaney and one-time housing chief under Barack Obama, Julian Castro.

Ms Harris launches her campaign straight after a tour to promote her latest memoir, The Truths We Hold, which was widely regarded as a stage-setter for a presidential bid.

She is already planning her first trip to an early primary state as a declared candidate. On Friday, Ms Harris will travel to South Carolina to attend the Pink Ice Gala in Columbia, which is hosted by a South Carolina chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which she pledged as an undergraduate student at Howard University. The sorority, founded more than 100 years ago, is a stronghold in the African-American community.

South Carolina, where black voters make up a large share of the Democratic electorate, is likely to figure heavily in Ms Harris’s prospects. And early voting in her home state of California will overlap with the traditional early nominating contests, which could give Ms Harris a boost.

Ms Harris’s campaign team is already taking shape and includes several veterans of Democratic politics.

Her staff says she plans to reject traditional political fund-raising. Ms Harris has invested heavily in cultivating a digital, small-dollar donor network.

Before her 2016 victory in the Senate race, Ms Harris made her career in law enforcement. She served as the district attorney in San Francisco before she was elected to serve as attorney general.

Ms 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. Her prosecution record has recently come under new scrutiny after a blistering opinion piece in The New York Times criticised her repeated claim that she was a “progressive prosecutor,” focused on changing a broken criminal justice system from within.

Updated: January 22, 2019 09:08 AM

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