The Slatest

Kamala Harris Makes it Official: She’s Running for President

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to reporters following a closed briefing on intelligence matters on Capitol Hill on December 4, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to reporters following a closed briefing on intelligence matters on Capitol Hill on December 4, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris made an announcement Monday that everyone knew was coming. “I am running for president of the United States,” she said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “And I’m very excited about it.” Just as she appeared on the morning show, her campaign released a brief video on social media. “Justice. Decency. Equality. Freedom. Democracy. These aren’t just words. They’re the values we as Americans cherish. And they’re all on the line now,” 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.”

The first-term senator from California is the first African-American woman to announce she will be running for president in 2020. She is also the fourth woman to throw her hat in the ring, although Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand both announced they were forming exploratory committees, which Harris is skipping. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii also said in a television interview earlier this month she would be running for president. Others who have already declared they will be running includes former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro. The crowded field is likely to contain several more names, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

In such a crowded field, Harris, 54, will likely lean heavily on her work as a prosecutor to help herself stand out. She served two terms as California’s attorney general before joining the Senate in 2016. The book tour she launched earlier this month demonstrated how her message seems to resonate particularly strongly with young people, women, and minorities. Democratic opponents have already warned her “law-and-order background” could diminish her appeal with voters on the left but the senator’s allies are confident she can change the narrative. Harris will try to portray herself as a “a kinder and gentler prosecutor” while also showcasing her background to show she can stand up to Donald Trump, reports Politico. “In the face of a lawless president and a lawless administration, Americans are going to be looking for somebody who represents and stands for the rule of law,” a Harris adviser said.

Harris “has the potential to be among the strongest contenders in the 2020 Democratic field,” notes FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. “There may be no other candidate who better embodies how the modern Democratic Party has changed over the last few decades in identity and ideology.”

Harris said she was “honored” to make her candidacy official on Martin Luther King Jr Day as she talked about how the civil rights icon has been a life-long inspiration. “The thing about Dr. King that always inspires me is that he was aspirational. He was aspirational like our country is aspirational. We know that we’ve not yet reached those ideals. But our strength is that we fight to reach those ideals,” the senator said. “So today, the day we celebrate Dr. King, is a very special day for all of us as Americans and I’m honored to be able to make my announcement on the day that we commemorate him.”