Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) kickstarts her presidential campaign at a rally in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Kamala Harris launches presidential campaign with Oakland rally

Sen. Kamala Harris began her Democratic campaign for president Sunday with an attack on President Donald Trump and a promise to unify a country deeply riven along social, cultural and political lines.

Speaking from the steps of Oakland’s City Hall plaza to a crowd that spilled over several downtown blocks, Harris depicted her candidacy as a fight against those “trying to sow hate and division.”

“We are here at this moment in this because we must answer a fundamental question,” Harris said. “Who are we? Who are we as Americans? So let’s answer that question, America. We are better than this.”

Though she never mentioned Trump by name, it was clear to whom she referred, as Harris painted a damning portrayal of the president and his actions.

“When we have leaders who bully and attack a free press and undermine our democratic institutions, that’s not our America,” Harris said. “When white supremacists march and murder in Charlottesville, or murder innocent worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, that’s not our America.”

The speech in Harris’ liberal-leaning hometown came nearly a week after California’s junior senator acknowledged what had long been evident, declaring her presidential candidacy in a symbolic move on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Barely two years into her freshman Senate term, the 54-year-old lawmaker is trying to become the nation’s first black female president.

Harris delivered her remarks just a few blocks from the Alameda County courthouse where she began her career as a prosecutor. On hand were several state and local lawmakers, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who helped introduce Harris and delivered a fervent endorsement.

Also mixed in the audience were more than a few shoppers curious to hear Harris before committing.

Leslie Brueckner, an attorney in Oakland, said she was driven by her “violent hatred of Donald Trump and my passionate desire to see a progressive candidate who can sweep him and the GOP out of office.”

However, though “very excited” by Harris’ candidacy, Brueckner said she needed to delve more into her record as a prosecutor. “I want someone who puts their money where their mouth is,” Brueckner said. “I think we’ve had enough of moderate Democrats.”

While Harris’ legal background will be central to her campaign _ the theme is the words “for the people,” taken from her courtroom salutation _ her career in law enforcement has been met with skepticism from some on the Democratic left. Critics accuse her of being too timid in reforming the criminal justice system and remedying its harsh application to people of color.

By Melanie Mason and Mark Z. Barabak
Los Angeles Times

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