Saturday 16 February 2019

Senator known for her strong questioning of Trump nominees launches White House bid

‘Bring our voices together’: Senator Kamala Harris speaks to the media after announcing she will run for president at Howard University in Washington. Photo: Reuters
‘Bring our voices together’: Senator Kamala Harris speaks to the media after announcing she will run for president at Howard University in Washington. Photo: Reuters

Juana Summers

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

The 54-year-old, who vowed to "bring our voices together", 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."

Ms Harris 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 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."

Ms Harris launched her presidential bid as the nation observes what would have been the 90th birthday of 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 abandoned the formality of launching an exploratory committee, instead going all in on a presidential bid.

Ms Harris has become popular with liberal activists for her tough questioning of Trump administration appointees and officials, including Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and former attorney general Jeff Sessions, during Senate hearings. She plans to have a formal launch in Oakland on January 27.

Ms Harris joins what is expected to be a wide-open race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

There is no apparent frontrunner at this early stage and Ms Harris will face off against several Senate colleagues.

Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have both launched exploratory committees. 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 face a fierce competition 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 former Obama administration housing chief Julián Castro.

Ms Harris and other Democrats will have to navigate the party's debate about whether an establishment figure who can appeal to centrist voters or a fresh face who can energise its increasingly diverse and progressive base offers the best chance to beat Mr Trump in 2020.

Irish Independent

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