Kamala D. Harris

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Kamala D. Harris
Kamala Harris.jpg
Attorney General of California
Incumbent
In office
January 5, 2011 - present
Term ends
January 5, 2015
Years in position 3
PartyDemocratic
PredecessorJerry Brown (D)
Compensation
Base salary$151,127
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2014
First electedNovember 2, 2010
Campaign $$9,986,613
Term limits2 terms
Education
Bachelor'sHoward University (1986)
J.D.University of California Hastings College of the Law (1989)
Personal
BirthdayOctober 20, 1964
Place of birthOakland, California
ProfessionAttorney
ReligionBaptist
Websites
Office website
Personal website
Campaign website
Kamala Devi Harris (b. October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California) is the 32nd and current Democratic Attorney General of California. She has served in this position since January 5, 2011. Harris survived a contentious and crowded primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for attorney general on June 8, 2010, winning with 33 percent of the vote. She went on to win the general election on November 2, 2010.[1]

Harris is California's first female, first black and first Asian American Attorney General, as well the first Tamil Attorney General in U.S. history.[2] She took office on January 5, 2011, for a four-year term which is set to expire in January 2015.

Before becoming attorney general, Harris served two terms as district attorney for San Francisco. Prior to that, she was head of the San Francisco city attorney's Division on Families. Her first position in San Francisco law enforcement was as head of the San Francisco district attorney's Career Criminal Unit. Before coming to San Francisco, she was a deputy district attorney for neighboring Alameda County, where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault.

Governing magazine named Harris as one of the top state Democratic officials to watch in 2013.[3] In a Huffington Post article published November 17, 2014, Harris was identified as one of seven Democratic state executive officials who could gain national prominence.[4]

Harris' was up for re-election in 2014. After a commanding first-place finish in the June 3 primary, she faced Republican Ronald Gold in the general election on November 4, 2014.[5][6] Kamala D. Harris won the general election on November 4, 2014.

Biography

Harris was born in California's East Bay. She is the daughter of Tamil mother, Dr. Shyamala Harris, a breast cancer specialist who came to the United States from India in 1960 to study at the University of California at Berkeley, and a Jamaican-American father, a Stanford University economics professor. Her parents divorced when Harris was a toddler; Dr. Shymala Harris raised her two daughters to embrace their African-American heritage amid Civil Rights era strife. Harris attended public schools through high school and then went on to pursue an undergraduate degree at Howard University in 1986, one of the nation's oldest traditionally black academic institutions.[7]

Harris later earned her law degree at UC Hastings College of the Law, which she quickly parlayed into a position in the Alameda County District Attorney's office. In 1990 she was promoted to Deputy Attorney for Alameda County. During her eight year tenure as Deputy she specialized in prosecuting cases involving child sexual assault and other violent crimes.

She then became Managing Attorney for the Career Criminal Unit in the Office of San Francisco District Attorney. Louise Renne, City Attorney for San Francisco, hired Harris in 2000 as Chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division, overseeing civil code enforcement matters.[8]

Harris has served on many Boards and Committees, such as the National Attorneys Association, California's Fight Crime:Invest in Kids Committee, Democratic National Convention's Platform commmittee, the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice section and California's District Attorney's Association. She has received several leadership awards, including:

  • Child Advocate of the Year Award (2004) from the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Council
  • Woman of Power Award (2004) from the National Urban League
  • Thurgood Marshall Award (2005) from the National Black Prosecutors Association
  • CLAY Award (2008) from the California Lawyer Magazine
  • Distinguished Leader Award (2008) from the Legal Community Against Violence

In 2009, Harris published her first book, entitled "Smart on Crime," in which she recollected an early penchant for seeking justice and equality set against the racially-charged culture of her upbringing.[9]

Education

  • Bachelor's degree, Howard University (1986)
  • Juris Doctorate degree, Hastings College of the Law at the University of California (1989)

Political Career

Attorney General (2011-present)

On Wednesday, November 12, 2008, eight days after Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States, Harris announced her candidacy for the statewide office of attorney general, the seat that was being vacated by Democrat Jerry Brown, who was in contention for the state's governorship.[10][1]

Harris is California's first female, first black and first Asian American Attorney General. She is also the first Tamil Attorney General in the nation's history.[11]

Issues

  • Mortgage Crisis/Illegal foreclosures settlement

Beginning in October, 2010, multiple states' attorneys general came together to forge a settlement with Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Ally Financial Inc. to address revelations that the mortgage lenders were illegally foreclosing on homes based on "robosigning" documents and other abusive procedures. In addition to a launching a probe into the banks' operations, the proposed accord sought to "set requirements for how lenders conduct home foreclosures and mandate that the banks fund loan principal writedowns for homeowners and provide refinancings."[12]

In early February 2012, Harris "returned to the negotiating table after a four-month absence" in time to sign off on a settlement between 49 state attorneys general, federal officials and the five mortgage lending institutions. The settlement stood to yield California a reported $18 billion of the expected $40 billion dollars in restitution and projected benefits. The deal took over a year and immense political labor to compose and finalize with the banks, and it did not prohibit attorneys general or private individuals from filing future lawsuits against the banks. In addition, there are "enforcement and penalty provisions unique to California that Harris said will make sure the banks comply with the terms of the settlement."[13]

  • Global warming

Harris supported California Assembly Bill 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Under the measure, the California Air Resources Board, empowered by the California Environmental Protection Agency, is to produce a plan that would lower the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, a nearly twenty-five percent reduction, by the year 2020. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into on September 27, 2006.[14]

  • Healthcare reform
See also: State Attorneys General Against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

On Tuesday, October 5th, 2010, Harris, who, at the time, was in the midst of her campaign for state attorney general, responded to a question at a debate hosted by the University of California-Davis School of Law as to whether or not she would pursue litigation against the newly enacted federal health care reform measure. She stated clearly that she would not and that to do so would be a great "misuse of the resources of this state."[15]

  • Medical marijuana

Speaking with The Sacramento Bee, Harris somewhat surprisingly came out in opposition to the sale of cannabis for recreational use. Though she supports the sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes, believing it has benefited certain individuals who have required it, she also believes the state must maintain a consistent standard about the ownership and operation of dispensaries. The State Attorney General candidate argued that "recreational sales would just create new headaches for a beleaguered system that needs to better regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and to assist nonviolent drug offenders."[16]

On Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, the day of the general election, California Proposition 19, also known as the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would have legalized various marijuana-related activities throughout the state, failed to receive the approval of the voters.[17] Nearly fifty-four percent of those who cast their votes on the ballot measure opposed the proposition.

Controversies

  • Mortgage settlement holdout

Harris' withdrawl from multi-state settlement negotiations with mortgage lenders between October 2011 and February 2012 led to speculation that she was gunning for an even higher office. Her suspected rationale was that an agreement enacted with her support would merely represent a shared victory among the participating states' attorneys general, and provide no individual glory for her to leverage into the Governorship.[12]

  • Ballot titles

Harris came under fire for the ballot titles her office wrote for a proposed 2012 Pension Reform Initiative.

Steven Greenhut, a conservative columnist, wrote, "Unfortunately, California Attorney General Kamala Harris' recent misuse of power to provide a dishonest ballot title and summary for proposed pension-reform initiatives, which she opposes, comes right out of the totalitarian playbook, where those wielding power recognize no rules of decency or fairness...when California Pension Reform submitted two initiatives that would rein in the unsustainable costs of the state's pension system, Harris decided to behave as a political operative and besmirch the office she holds by distorting the official descriptions that most voters rely upon when making their voting decision."[18]

Specifically, according to Greenhut:

"In January, she titled the reform measures: "Reduces pensions for public employees." That's flat-out wrong. Her summary was filled with distortions meant to sway voters against them. As result, last week the pension reform group dropped the initiative. They couldn't raise the $2 million needed to gather the signatures given the overwhelming obstacle Harris put in their way."[18]

The liberal editorial board of the Modesto Bee similarly opined:

"Her office's official description of the two measures read like talking points taken straight from a public employee union boss' campaign handbook. Harris claimed the measures would reduce retirement income for current employees, which is not true. She also claimed that future government employees would lose survivor and death benefits, also not true."[19]

The San Diego Union-Tribune's editorial board referred to it as "Kamala Harris' dirty trick on California."[20]

San Francisco District Attorney (2004-2010)

Controversies

  • Deborah Madden

Three months after Deborah Madden, a San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) drug-test technician, resigned from her position and entered treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, all drug testing at the police crime lab was halted. It had been suspected that Madden, whose responsibilities included vouching for the weight and purity of seized drugs, skimmed cocaine after "officials discovered that the evidence was missing during a crime lab audit conducted" prior to her departure.[21] The audit itself had been prompted after a supervisor became aware of apparent tampering with the packaging of drug evidence. In a police interview conducted nearly a month after the investigation into the matter began, Madden admitted to using cocaine found at work in order "to try to control her drinking habit after trying it from a friend."[22]

California Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo severely reprimanded Harris's office for hiding information regarding Madden, designating the refusal "to produce information actually in its possession regarding Madden and the crime lab a violation of the defendants' constitutional rights."[23] San Francisco prosecutors were forced to dismiss more than 600 drug cases since the scandal first broke.

  • Felony convictions

Harris, then the San Francisco District Attorney, made it a point in the run up to the 2010 Democratic primary election for attorney general to highlight "her 71 percent success rate in obtaining felony convictions" since taking office in 2004.[24] This significant, nineteen percent increase from the rate reported by her predecessor, Terence Hallinan, in his final year as San Francisco DA, caught the attention of local alternative newspaper, The San Francisco Weekly. The newspaper argued that, upon closer examination, the statistic was misleading.

Past and current criminal attorneys accused Harris, while serving as San Francisco District Attorney, of playing politics with the public safety. To counteract perceptions of weakness stemming from her anti-death penalty stance, even in cases of clear guilt, Harris supposedly "adopted more inflexible charging procedures to look tough on crime for the attorney general's race."[24][25] In this way, if the case went to trial her office could always blame the failure to obtain a conviction on the jury. Other prosecutors, however, expressed skepticism, arguing that the first quarter of 2010 is too narrow of a snapshot to declare it a trend. Neutral parties conceded that "a general absence of wise decision-making on when to hold and when to fold a case" could have helped explain San Francisco's alarmingly low conviction rate.[24]

  • Sunshine Law violation

San Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, a private citizen run organization that "advises the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on matters relating to the city's open-government laws," charged Harris, as District Attorney, with violating local open-government laws three days prior to the 2010 general election.[26] Shortly after the state's June 8th primary, in which Harris held off four other challengers for the Democratic nomination in the race for State Attorney General, Steve Cooley, her Republican opponent, filed a public records request with her office "asking for a list of internal documents such as office budgets, workplace-related complaints filed against Harris, phone records, salary and per diem expenses, office calendars, security detail information and email records from 1998 to present."[26]

Elections

2014

See also: State executive official elections, 2014

Harris ran for re-election to the office of state attorney general in 2014.[27] She secured one of two possible nominations in the June 3 primary election. The general election took place November 4, 2014.

Results

Primary election
Attorney General of California, Blanket Primary, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngKamala Harris Incumbent 53.2% 2,177,480
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngRonald Gold 12.3% 504,091
     Republican Phil Wyman 11.7% 479,468
     Republican David King 9% 368,190
     Republican John Haggerty 8.2% 336,433
     Nonpartisan Orly Taitz 3.2% 130,451
     Libertarian Jonathan Jaech 2.4% 99,056
Total Votes 4,095,169
Election Results via California Secretary of State.


General election
Attorney General of California, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngKamala Harris Incumbent 57.5% 4,102,649
     Republican Ronald Gold 42.5% 3,033,476
Total Votes 7,136,125
Election Results via California Secretary of State.

Endorsements

Harris' 2014 re-election campaign for attorney general was endorsed by the following individuals:

  • Santa Barbara SHeriff Bill Brown[28]
  • Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley[29]
  • Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey[30]

2010

See also: California Attorney General election, 2010
2010 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary[1]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Kamala Harris 33.1%
     Democratic Party Chris Kelly 15.9%
     Democratic Party Alberto Torrico 14.9%
     Democratic Party Ted Lieu 10.5%
     Democratic Party Rocky Delgadillo 10.1%
     Democratic Party Pedro Nava 9.9%
     Democratic Party Mike Schmier 5.6%
Total Votes 1,676,360
Kamala Harris for California Attorney General 2010 Campaign logo
2010 Race for Attorney General - General Election[31]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Kamala Harris 46.0%
     Republican Party Steve Cooley 45.5%
     Green Party Peter Allen 2.7%
     Libertarian Party Timothy Hannan 2.5%
     American Independent Party Diane Templin 1,7%
     Peace and Freedom Party Robert J. Evans 1.6%
Total Votes 9,544,403
  • Stalker accusations

Two days following the conclusion of the 2010 Democratic State Convention in Los Angeles, California, Harris released a memo suggesting that Chris Kelly's campaign had deliberately sent a staffer with a video camera to record every word she said and every individual she interacted with. In campaigning, this is called tracking and is a commonly used campaign tactic all over the country. The Harris campaign, however, labeled this stunt as a "cheap invasion of Harris's privacy."[32] Though refusing to admit whether or not he had in fact done what Harris's campaign had accused him of doing, Kelly argued in response that the San Francisco DA had sent her own stalkers to harass him. These individuals, he said, followed him "around the convention, complete with Nixon masks and signs." They had even crashed a party he held later that evening, where upon his spokesman claims he bought them drinks because "he's classy like that."[32]

  • Norman Hsu contribution

Three weeks after Harris' 2010 AG campaign sharply criticized her Republican opponent Steve Cooley for accepting political contributions from convicted lobbyist Gladwin Gill, Harris was accused of doing the exact same thing. Norman Hsu, a convicted pyramid investment promoter who raised considerable financial contributions for Democratic politicians, in particular former United States Senator Hillary Clinton, donated $1,250 to Kamala Harris, who refused to return the money despite other Democrats having done so. A spokesman for the Harris campaign claimed she had "wanted to donate Hsu's contributions to charity during her 2007 re-election campaign, but San Francisco law prohibits candidates from doing so during an active race."[33] Years after winning re-election as San Francisco District Attorney, Harris insisted that she would then make the donation to the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium. A spokesman for her Republican opponent's campaign argued that her explanation proves she is either "incompetent or dishonest."[33]

  • Death penalty

While Harris has argued that she has always been personally opposed to the death penalty, some media sources questioned whether she altered her position in the run-up to election in 2010.[34][35] Though she stated in her 2004 inaugural address as San Francisco's District Attorney that she would never charge the death penalty, when asked during her campaign for attorney general if there would ever be a time when she would seek the death penalty, she answered, "We take each case on a case by case basis…and I’ll make decisions on each case as they arise.”[36] The Chris Kelly campaign, in an effort to emphasize the San Francisco DA's refusal to enforce the law, released a video that shows Harris telling an astonished reporter for the local KTVU news station that "she had never seen a case that merited pursuing the death penalty during her time as District Attorney."[37]

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Harris is available dating back to 2010. Based on available campaign finance records, Harris raised a total of $9,986,613 during that time period. This information was last updated on July 8, 2013.[38]

Kamala D. Harris's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Attorney General of California Not up for election $2,425,985
2010 Attorney General of California Won $7,560,628
Grand Total Raised $9,986,613

2010

Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Kamala Harris's donors each year.[39] Click [show] for more information.


Personal

Harris, who cites Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston and Constance Baker Motley as inspirations for becoming a lawyer, currently resides in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood. Her passions include cooking, jazz, rap and Bob Marley. She is unmarried and highly guarded about her private life.[9]

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External links

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 California Secretary of State - 2010 Statewide Primary Election Results (dead link)
  2. Office of the AG, "About the AG," accessed February 1, 2012 (dead link) (dead link)
  3. Governing, "State Democratic Officials to Watch in 2013," accessed January 25, 2013
  4. Huffington Post, "These Democrats Could Be The Party's Ticket To A Comeback," November 17, 2014
  5. California Secretary of State, "Campaign Finance:Statement of Intention," accessed November 27, 2012
  6. Kamala Harris for Attorney General, "Homepage," accessed October 9, 2013
  7. Reuters, "Newsmaker: California Attorney General Kamala Harris, February 10, 2012
  8. KamalaHarris.org, "About Kamala," accessed February 1, 2012 (dead link) (dead link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 The San-Francisco Chronicle, "Kamala Harris mixing idealism, political savvy," April 29, 2012
  10. Johnny California, "California 2010 Election: Future President Kamala Harris Announces Run for Attorney General" 12 Nov. 2008
  11. Office of the AG, "About the AG," accessed February 1, 2012 (dead link) (dead link)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Bloomberg Newsweek, "Harris Seeks to Improve Mortgage Deal With Holdout, January 31, 2012
  13. Reuters, "Newsmaker: California AG Kamala Harris," February 10, 2012
  14. Office of the Governor, "Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions" 27 Sept. 2006
  15. Los Angeles Times, "Attorney general debate: Kamala Harris says she and Steve Cooley differ greatly on healthcare" 5 Oct. 2010
  16. The Sacramento Bee, "Attorney general candidate Kamala Harris opposes legalizing marijuana" 17 March, 2010 (dead link) (dead link)
  17. ABC News, "California's Proposition 19 Rejected by Voters" 3 Nov. 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 Orange County Register, "Steven Greenhut: Harris distorts democracy to aid unions," February 17, 2012
  19. Fresno Bee, "It's up to Brown to get pension-reform results," February 15, 2012
  20. San Diego Union Tribune, "Kamala Harris’ dirty trick on California," February 12, 2012
  21. San Francisco Chronicle, "SFPD drug-test technician accused of skimming" 10 March, 2010
  22. CBS 5 "Ex-SF Crime Lab Tech Admits Using Cocaine" 14 April, 2010
  23. San Francisco Chronicle, "Judge rips Harris' office for hiding problems" 21 May, 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 San Francisco Weekly, "A Lack of Conviction" 5 May, 2010
  25. Los Angeles Times, "San Francisco D.A.'s program trained illegal immigrants for jobs they couldn't legally hold" 22 June, 2009
  26. 26.0 26.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "S.F. panel: Kamala Harris violated sunshine law" 30 Oct. 2010
  27. California Secretary of State, "Campaign Finance:Statement of Intention," accessed November 27, 2012
  28. Kamala Harris 2014 Official campaign website, "Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown Endorses Re-Election of AG Harris," October 3, 2013 (dead link) (dead link)
  29. Kamala Harris 2014 Official campaign website, "Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley Endorses Re-Election of AG Harris," September 18, 2013 (dead link) (dead link)
  30. Kamala Harris 2014 Official campaign website, "LA DA Jackie Lacey Endorses Re-Election of AG Kamala Harris," September 9, 2013 (dead link) (dead link)
  31. California Secretary of State - 2010 General Election Results
  32. 32.0 32.1 The California Majority Report, "UPDATE - AG Battle Between Harris, Kelly Getting Ugly" 20 April, 2010
  33. 33.0 33.1 Los Angeles Times Kamala Harris kept campaign money from disgraced fundraiser" 15 Sept. 2010
  34. The Sacramento Bee, "AG Candidate Kamala Harris: Don't sell marijuana like liquor" 16 March, 2010
  35. San Francisco Citizen, "Has District Attorney Kamala Harris Actually Changed Her Position on the Death Penalty?" 18 March, 2010
  36. KGO-TV "Harris won't seek death penalty against Ramos" 10 Sept. 2009
  37. California Majority Report, "Campaign Memo from the Chris Kelly for Attorney General Campaign" 14 May, 2010
  38. Follow the Money, "Career fundraising for Kamala D. Harris," accessed July 8, 2013
  39. Follow the Money.org
Political offices
Preceded by
Jerry Brown (D)
Attorney General of California
2011 - present
Succeeded by
NA