On January 21, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) officially announced that she is running for the Democratic nomination for US president in 2020, putting months of speculation to rest. As one of the first candidates to announce, Harris has had a long time to prepare her campaign, dominate the news cycle, and become the establishment pick. Yet despite her name recognition and fundraising of $12 million from over 218,000 individual donors, Harris has been struggling in the polls compared to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Harris was born in 1964 to an Indian mother and Jamaican father in Oakland, California. She attended Howard University and studied political science and economics. Then she attended the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and became a lawyer in 1990. She served as Alameda County's deputy district attorney until 1998 and was elected as San Francisco's district attorney in 2003, where she served until 2011. In 2011, she ran for California Attorney General and won to become the state's first female top lawyer. Harris ran for the US Senate in 2016 and won. She currently serves as the junior Senator from California on the Budget, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Homeland Security Committees.
Harris is both moderate and liberal as a politician. She has a few signature policy proposals. First is her tax cut bill. The LIFT the Middle Class Act would enact a small universal basic income in the form of refundable tax credits for the poor and middle class. It would give couples earning $100,000 or less $6,000 a year and repeal part of the Republican tax cuts. Second is criminal justice reform. She supports cash bail reform, marijuana legalization, and ending the death penalty. Third is climate change. She supports the Green New Deal and wants to investigate oil giants for misleading the public with their research. On other issues, she holds standard liberal positions. She is pro-choice and supports LGBTQ rights. She wants an assault weapons ban. She opposes President Trump's foreign policy. She wants a humane immigration policy and protection for undocumented minors. She supports universal healthcare but is fine with either Medicare for all or a public option.
Harris's largest challenges are her record and popularity slump. Conservatives and center-right independents believe she is a far-left socialist due to her support for the Green New Deal, gun control, and immigration reform. Progressives point at her California record, where she charged poor black families with truancy and cracked down on sex workers, to say she is a bad centrist. So she is neither right enough for Republican-learning independents nor left enough for the Democratic Party's progressive base. Also, Harris is struggling to stay in the top 5 in polls with a crowded field of 22 candidates. Her identity as a female person of color should help in the primary, but she needs to do something before the first caucus to seem more exciting to voters.
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