Closing The Gap

Kamala Harris' 2020 presidential bid marks a historic moment for American politics

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to reporters after announcing her candidacy for President of the United States, at Howard University, her alma mater, on January 21, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Al Drago | Getty Images

On Monday, California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris announced her bid for the 2020 presidential election, making her the first African-American woman to enter next year's White House race.

Her announcement, which fell on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, comes 47 years after Rep. Shirley Chisholm announced her presidential bid for the Democratic nomination in 1972. Chisholm was the first woman and the first African-American to seek the Democratic Party nomination for president.

Harris, 54, was born in Oakland, California, to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father. She is a graduate of the historically black college Howard University, and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

After law school, she started her career in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office before transferring to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office in 1998, according to her website. In 2010, she became the first woman and first African-American elected to serve as attorney general for the state of California.

In 2016, she was elected as only the second African-American woman in history to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to the media after announcing she will run for president of the United States at Howard University in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2019.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Harris' announcement has been met with a mixture of support and skepticism. Many liberals have criticized her record as a former California prosecutor.

In a press conference on Monday at Howard University, Harris addressed concerns about her days as a prosecutor, saying there were some cases in which she regrets not being able to do more.

"I can tell you of the cases where I really regret that we were not able to charge somebody that molested a child but the evidence wasn't there," HuffingtonPost reports her saying at her alma mater. "There are cases ... where there were folks who made a decision in my office who did not consult with me and I wish they had. But again, I take full responsibility for those decisions."

Harris continued by citing the things she did as a prosecutor that she is proud of, like implementing a program where first-time nonviolent offenders can have their charges dismissed if they complete vocational training.

"There are fundamental flaws in the criminal justice system and ... this criminal justice system needs to be reformed," she added.

In addition to criminal justice reform, aides close to Harris tell The Washington Post that the presidential candidate also plans to propose bail reform, a $3 trillion tax plan, a tax credit for low-income renters and a Medicare-for-all healthcare plan.

Harris, who is currently the only black woman in the Senate, has gained popularity for her tough questioning of Trump nominees, including Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She's also known as being a tough critic of President Trump's immigration policies and has pushed for policies to protect immigrants from deportation.

After making her announcement on "Good Morning America," the senator released a video debuting her campaign slogan as "Kamala Harris: For the People."

"The future of our country depends on you, and millions of others, lifting our voices to fight for our American values," she said in the video. "Let's do this together. Let's claim our future for ourselves, for our children and for our country."

Harris, who has reportedly raised $1.5 million since her announcement, is the fourth woman to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential race. So far, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard have all announced presidential campaigns.

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U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to reporters after announcing her candidacy for President of the United States, at Howard University, her alma mater, on January 21, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Al Drago | Getty Images
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