California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Wednesday that she uses a personal email account to communicate with her senior state staff on “very rare” occasions.
Harris' disclosure in an interview with The Associated Press comes as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton faces stiff criticism over her use of a private email account at the State Department and questions about whether she skirted transparency rules by deleting thousands of emails.
Harris, the only major Democrat in the 2016 race for California's first open U.S. Senate race in decades, said she doesn't use email on the job regularly because the nature of the legal work often involves voluminous research. Typically, she carries one or two binders stuffed with memos and legal briefs, she said.
But in very rare cases, Harris said she uses her personal email account to reach top staffers, usually for mundane tasks like forwarding a news article. She said she does not use her personal email account for any substantive state work.
“If I read an article … and it relates to something that I'm curious about in terms of the connection between that and the work that we do, I will pretty often send that from my personal email to my executive staff with the words, 'Let's discuss,' ” Harris said.
Harris' use of the private email account did not appear to violate any state policy.
“The customary practice for state official business is to use state email accounts for state work,” said Lynda Gledhill , a spokeswoman for the California Government Operations Agency. “All state business is subject to the records-retention policy developed by state agencies and filed with the Secretary of State's office.”
Harris carries separate mobile phones — one issued by the state, the other personal. She told the AP that if elected to the Senate, it's “very unlikely” she would use a personal phone for government work in Washington.
In a wide-ranging interview, Harris also said the state is considering appealing a judge's decision to remove the Orange County district attorney's office from the case of convicted mass killer Scott Dekraai and have it handled by her office. Harris, an opponent of capital punishment, also did not rule out the possibility that her office could seek the death penalty in that case. The county prosecutor wants such punishment.
“I'm reviewing it now, and we have until Friday to make the decision,” she said.
Asked about tension between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who fended off a strong challenge from the country's opposition leader in Tuesday's election, Harris said “our relationship with Israel is stronger than any one individual.”
“We have a clear bond with Israel and a clear priority in a secure Israel, and politics and elections aren't going to change that commitment,” she said.
Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney who last fall won a second term as attorney general, announced her campaign for the Senate on Jan. 13. Thus far, it has been nearly invisible to the public as she concentrates on raising money behind closed doors and roping in endorsements, a strategy that appears intended to discourage potential rivals.
At this juncture, the only significant opposition she faces for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, a two-term Republican and former Marine little known outside his home district. Several members of Congress are among those considering a run for the open seat.
Chavez has questioned Harris' credentials on foreign policy and national security, asking that at a time of conflict in the Middle East if voters want a San Francisco lawyer or a former Marine colonel in the Senate.
Asked to respond, Harris said “voters will answer that question.”