Attorney-General Kamala Harris in driver's seat for California's Senate race

Two prominent Democratic women, both minorities, lead the pack. The front-runner, Indian origin Kamala Devi Harris, has been California’s attorney-general for more than five years and has run two statewide campaigns for the seat

Uttara Choudhury May 16, 2016 08:56:38 IST
Attorney-General Kamala Harris in driver's seat for California's Senate race

New York: All eyes are on the race for the high-profile US Senate seat in California. Two prominent Democratic women, both minorities, lead the pack. The front-runner, Indian origin Kamala Devi Harris, has been California’s attorney-general for more than five years and has run two statewide campaigns for the seat. The second, Latin American Loretta Sanchez, has served in Congress for nearly 20 years.

Polls show Harris, the 51-year-old daughter of Indian doctor Shyamala Gopalan and Jamaican American father, Stanford University economics professor Donald Harris, is the front-runner, with 27 percent support in an April poll of voters by Field Research.

AttorneyGeneral Kamala Harris in drivers seat for Californias Senate race

File image of Kamala Harris. AFP

US Representative Loretta Sanchez, 56-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants, is in second place at 14 percent. Both Democrats, have the best chance at making it past the state’s top-two 7 June primary to face each other in a general election than the three top Republican hopefuls in the race — Duf Sundheim, Tom Del Beccaro and wealthy software developer Ron Unz.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll also put Harris as the solid front-runner, and Sanchez in second place far ahead of the Republican pack. Harris has raised $10 million through the first quarter of the year; Sanchez has raised $3.2 million and Del Beccaro merely $316,000.

According to the media, Harris' appeal is similar in many ways to her friend President Barack Obama's; she has a “compelling life story and trails innovative ideas the way some women do perfume”. Like her friend Obama, who created a stir by declaring that "Kamala is the best looking attorney-general of the United States," Harris is a product of today’s multi-racial, mobile America.

Harris' parents separated when she was five. Harris and her younger sister Maya, also a lawyer, were raised by their Indian mother, a successful oncologist, who moved to America in the 1960s to study medicine. Harris was married in an Indian and Jewish ceremony in 2014 to Douglas Emhoff, who is a partner with her at law firm Venable LLP's Los Angeles office.

A brilliant prosecutor, Harris became San Francisco's first female district attorney in 2003. Her biracial background made her the state's first black — and nation's first Indian American — district attorney. She has now been the attorney-general in California for more than five years.

Senate ads for Harris have cast her as tough but caring, a candidate who can put bad guys in jail one minute and high-five with kids the next. The ads focus on her "fearless" record as California’s attorney-general.

“Harris prosecuted violent predators and transnational gangs exploiting women and children. She took on big oil companies violating our hazardous waste laws. And Kamala Harris sued the big banks and won $20 billion for California homeowners,” reels out the Senate ad.

“Kamala Harris was fearless,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who has endorsed Harris as a fearless advocate for Californians.

Harris has strong support among Asian Americans  who make up about 15 percent of the population of California. Harris draws her strongest support from the liberal Bay Area which has a lot of Indian tech workers. Sanchez draws her support from the traditionally conservative Orange County.

"Kamala Harris is a trail blazer," said Radha Patel, a software engineer in San Francisco. "I hold her up as a role model for my girls. We will support her in this race."

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