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Kamala Harris 2020 presidential campaign

The 2020 presidential campaign of Kamala Harris, the junior United States Senator from California, officially began on January 21, 2019.[2] Harris has been considered a high profile candidate for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries since 2016.[3][4][5][6][7]

Kamala Harris for the People
Kamala Harris 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg
Campaign2020 United States presidential election (Democratic Party primaries)
CandidateKamala Harris
U.S. Senator from California (2017–present)
Attorney General of California (2011–2017)
District Attorney of San Francisco (2004–2011)
AffiliationDemocratic Party
StatusAnnounced: January 21, 2019
Formal launch: January 27, 2019
HeadquartersBaltimore, Maryland
Oakland, California
(West Coast)
Key peopleMaya Harris (campaign chair)[1]
Juan Rodriguez (campaign manager)[1]
Lily Adams (national communications director)[1]
Ian Sams (national press secretary)[1]
Marc Elias (general counsel)[1]
Angelique Cannon (national finance director)[1]
Sean Clegg (senior advisor)[1]
Laphonza Butler (senior advisor)[1]
Averell Smith (senior advisor)[1]
David Huynh (senior advisor)[1]
David Binder (pollster)[1]
SloganFor the People


Following the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, Harris was named as part of the "Hell-No Caucus" by Politico in 2018, along with Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, given she voted "overwhelmingly to thwart [Trump's] nominees for administration jobs", such as with Rex Tillerson, Betsy DeVos and Mike Pompeo; all of the Senators in this group were considered potential 2020 presidential contenders at this point in time.[8] Prior to announcing her candidacy, she had publicly stated that she was "not ruling it out".[9] In December 2018, Harris announced that she planned on considering whether to run for president "over the holiday."[10][11][12] The following month, it was confirmed that Harris was expected to make an official announcement around Martin Luther King Jr. Day regarding the 2020 election.[13]

Harris was the sixth office-holding Democrat to formally announce a campaign in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, joining Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, former Maryland Congressman John Delaney, former West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.[14]



On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 21, 2019, Harris announced on Good Morning America that she would be seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Her campaign headquarters will be in Baltimore, Maryland, with a second office in Oakland, California.[1] Her campaign slogan, "For the People," is the phrase she used to formally announce her appearances as a prosecutor in the California superior courts[15] as implicitly required by California law.[16]

Within twenty-four hours of the announcement, Harris's campaign received over $1.5 million in donations from about 38,000 individuals across all fifty states, with the average donation being $37.[17][18][19][20] At the time, this record amount tied with the one set by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election.[21] Several other candidates's first-day fundraising totals later surpassed Harris's.[22][23][24]

An overflow crowd of over 20,000 people attended her formal campaign kickoff event at Frank Ogawa Plaza in her hometown of Oakland, California, on January 27.[25][26] Numerous commentators noted that there were more attendees at Harris's kickoff event than Barack Obama's first presidential campaign kickoff in Springfield, Illinois, in 2007.[27]

Early campaigningEdit

On January 28, a day after her official kickoff, Harris received the endorsement of Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-33), a fellow Californian and co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.[28] That same day, Harris introduced herself as a 2020 presidential candidate in a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.[29]

On February 7, Harris unveiled endorsements from three-quarters of the Democratic delegation in the California State Senate.[30]

On April 14, Harris released all of her personal tax returns from 2004 to 2018, each year that Harris has held public office. A Harris campaign aide said Harris's disclosure made her "the most transparent candidate in the field when it comes to information about personal finances."[31]

On May 5, Harris gave a speech at the Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner of the Detroit Branch NAACP in which she pledged that her administration would "hold social media platforms accountable for the hate infiltrating their platforms, because they have a responsibility to help fight against this threat to our democracy" and referred to 2018 as the "deadliest year on record for domestic terrorism" since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.[32]

On June 1, Harris delivered remarks at a San Francisco forum sponsored by the liberal group MoveOn when an animal rights protestor jumped onstage and grabbed the microphone out of Harris's hand. Moderator Karine Jean-Pierre moved to stand between Harris and the protestor as security guards escorted him offstage.[33]

On July 12, Harris appeared on The View where she stated her position on illegal immigration was treating the subject as a "civil enforcement issue" that was concurrent with a secure border and not treating individuals who entered the U.S. illegally like criminals before she stated her intent to discontinue multiple practices of the Trump administration as it related to the subject.[34]

On August 8, Harris was interviewed by CNN on her campaign bus, where she discussed President Trump's racial views and the existence of "a long list of statements and tweets and behaviors from this president that make it very clear that he possesses hate and that he is divisive and that he is a racist."[35]

On September 4, Harris participated in a CNN climate change forum where she stated her support for banning fracking and taking other steps to cut fossil fuel emissions without concern for bipartisan support. Harris indicated that she would eliminate the Senate filibuster in the event that it was essential to the passage of the Green New Deal via a simple majority vote.[36]

On September 19, political aides for Harris reported that she was reorienting her presidential campaign strategy in order to invest in early states after spending months on fundraising and added that her intent was to finish in the top three in the Iowa caucuses after doubling her campaign's organizing staff in Iowa.[37]

On October 10, Harris participated in a CNN/Human Rights Campaign town hall on the topic of LGBTQ rights, where she pledged her support for "all of the folks who are fighting for equality in" cases that would determine whether gay and transgender people were protected under laws banning federal workplace discrimination.[38]

On October 17, Harris campaign national press secretary Ian Sams tweeted an altered image of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi standing up and pointing at President Trump during a meeting in the White House where Harris had been placed in Trump's position with the caption "Time for an upgrade." Sams deleted the image, and reflected that in trying "to make the point that we needed more than one strong woman leading a branch of government, rightwing trolls spammed my account."[39]


On May 16, 2019, Harris announced that her campaign had raised over $160,000 for abortion rights groups following Alabama lawmakers approving a measure that outlawed almost all abortions including instances of rape or incest and imposed criminal penalties on doctors that had performed the procedure.[40]

On October 1, 2019, the Harris campaign announced that it had raised 11.6 million in the third quarter with campaign manager Juan Rodriguez noting their organizers and staff and citing this as why they were "ready to harness the energy of our thousands of grassroots volunteers to phone bank, knock doors and turn out the vote for Kamala in these 2020 contests."[41]

Closure of New Hampshire offices and layoffsEdit

On October 30, 2019, Politico reported that the Harris campaign was laying off "dozens" of staffers at her Baltimore headquarters, as the campaign was "hemorrhaging cash."[42] The report said that staffers assigned to the early states of New Hampshire and Nevada as well as the Super Tuesday state California had been moved to the first in the nation contest in Iowa.[42] The report also said that campaign manager Juan Rodriguez had his salary cut as a cost-saving measure, and that other contracts were being renegotiated to save money.[42]

The campaign confirmed the restructuring, and compared it to restructuring early in the campaigns of John Kerry in 2004 and John McCain in 2008;[42] both Kerry and McCain successfully captured their parties' nominations, but both ultimately failed to be elected president.

On November 1, Politico reported that there was "no visible activity at any of her offices in [New Hampshire]" and that the campaign was "keeping only a skeleton crew" in the state, centered around the state's largest city, Manchester.[43]

Democratic primary debatesEdit

First debateEdit

The first debate of the primary season was split into two parts, with 10 candidates debating on June 26 and 10 other candidates debating on June 27; a random drawing placed Harris in the latter group of candidates.[44]

At one point in the debate, Harris criticized her fellow candidates for talking over each other, saying "America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we are going to put food on their table."[45] Later, she criticized Joe Biden for his comments regarding his past work with segregationist Senators and his past opposition to busing; Harris noted that she herself was bused to school as a child.[46]

Harris's performance in the debate received praise from many in the media, with some journalists referring to her as the unofficial winner (or one of the winners) of the debate.[47][48][49][50][51][52][53] Morning Consult and FiveThirtyEight worked together on polling that reported that Harris's support among Democrats went from about 8% before the debate to almost 17% after the debate.[50] Harris raised $2 million in donations in the first 24 hours after the debate, which is the highest amount of money that her campaign has raised in a 24-hour period to date.[54] President Donald Trump criticized Harris, saying she was given "too much credit" for her debate with Biden.[55]

Second debateEdit

The criteria for qualifying for the second debates were the same as for the first debates.[56] Harris was assigned to participate in the second night of the second debate, which took place in Detroit on July 31.[57]

In the debate, Harris defended her health care plan from claims by Joe Biden that it would cost $3 trillion and eliminate employer based insurance, asserting that her plan would "bring healthcare to all Americans under a Medicare for All system". and disparaged his health care proposal as leaving around 10 million Americans uninsured.[58] Harris was also confronted by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard over her record as Attorney General, notably her past positions on marijuana, cash bail, and parole reform.[59] At more than fifteen minutes, Harris spoke for the second largest amount of time of the second night candidates.[60]

Harris had fallen in polls after the second debate, her encounter with Gabbard being cited as the reason for this.[61] Commentator Niall Stanage opined that Gabbard "delivered the strongest critique yet of Harris’s record as a prosecutor in California" and asserted that "Harris seemed wrong-footed by the attacks, with her answers often flat and lacking in specifics."[62]

Third debateEdit

To qualify for the third round of debates, "candidates are required to both have 130,000 unique donors and register at least 2 percent support in four polls".[63] The debate was hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision and held at Texas Southern University.[64] During the debate, Harris defended her campaign's version of Medicare for All that would authorize private companies to administer some plans in a tightly regulated way while crediting Bernie Sanders for championing the prior version.[65]

Reaction to Harris's performance varied, as Vox noted that Harris and fellow contender Pete Buttigieg needed breakout performances that would lift them into double digit polling akin to Biden, Sanders, and Warren and both failed in this regard: "Harris tried to land a few jokes and zingers (including an awkward line to Biden about how 'yes, we can' do gun control), but she seemed to be the only one laughing at them."[66] Chris Cillizza of CNN admitted the lack of effectiveness of Harris's one-liners but praised Harris spending her entire opening statement addressing Trump as "smart" and predicted that her comment in which she told President Trump to return to watching Fox News would likely "be replayed dozens of times over the next 24 hours."[67] Jonathan Easley of The Hill complimented Harris's overall performance as she appeared "more at ease in a debate where she didn’t seem pressured to be leading the attacks against Biden."[68]

Fourth debateEdit

Harris was one of twelve candidates to participate in the fourth debate, which was hosted by CNN on October 15. Harris criticized the little time spent discussing abortion rights in any of the debates conducted by that point and asserted that impoverished women and women of color would die due to Republican legislators in "various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with their bodies."[69] Later, Harris confronted Elizabeth Warren over her refusal to endorse Harris's calls for President Trump's Twitter account to be suspended.[70] Harris spoke for a total of twelve minutes, which was the sixth-least time of all candidates.[71]

In his live analysis of the debate on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah called Harris's confrontation of Warren the beginning of a "real-life Twitter beef" and dubbed it "the weirdest part of the night".[72] John McCormick of the National Review panned Harris's confrontation with Warren and espoused the view that other parts of her performance felt forced in place of conveying authenticity, concluding, "Harris isn’t quite dead yet in the Democratic party, but it’s getting a little late in the game for her to come back. The Iowa caucuses are in three and a half months. And the rest of Harris’s debate performance didn’t inspire much confidence that she knows how to turn things around."[73]

Historical significanceEdit

A Shirley Chisholm button, whose typography Harris paid tribute to in her campaign.

Harris is the third office-holding African-American woman to seek the Democratic nomination for president, the first two being U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm in 1972 and U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun in 2004 (the latter of whom is also the only other black woman to have ever served in the U.S. Senate).[74] Harris launched her presidential campaign forty-seven years to the day after Chisholm's presidential campaign.[75] Harris paid homage to Chisholm's campaign by using a similar color scheme and typography in her own campaign's promotional materials and logo.[76]

If nominated, Harris would become the first Asian American and the first African-American woman to be the presidential nominee of any major party. If elected, she would become the first woman, first Asian American, first Indian American, first person of Jamaican descent, and second African American to become president.[77][78] Her husband, Doug Emhoff, would become the first "First Gentleman" in American history, as all previous presidential spouses have been women.[79]

Political positionsEdit


Harris supports tougher legislation and action to prevent gun violence.[80] For example, she supports universal background checks for people looking to purchase firearms and a ban on "assault weapons."[81]

Harris supports legalizing recreational marijuana at the federal level. She had previously opposed legalization and had laughed about her 2014 Attorney General Republican opponent supporting it.[82] During an interview on The Breakfast Club in February 2019, she strongly affirmed her support for recreational cannabis, saying that "it gives a lot of people joy." At the same time, she called for more research into marijuana's potentially harmful effects on the brain and for regulation that would restrict driving while under the influence of the drug.[83] In the same interview, Harris likened familiarity with cannabis to Jamaican culture, a statement that was subsequently denounced by her father.[84]

Harris' speech at a Center for American Progress event in Las Vegas in April 2019


Harris supports the idea of a tax plan that would lower taxes on the middle class while raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. She has criticized the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and says that she would fund her own tax bill by repealing parts of the TCJA.[85]

Harris supports raising the hourly minimum wage to $15.[86]


Harris speaking to the California Democratic Party in June 2019.

During her time as San Francisco District Attorney, Harris created the Environmental Justice Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney's Office[87] and prosecuted several industries and individuals for pollution, most notably U-Haul, Alameda Publishing Corporation, and the Cosco Busan oil spill. She also advocated for strong enforcement of environmental protection laws.[88]

In September 2018, Harris was one of eight senators to sponsor the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, a bill described by cosponsor Elizabeth Warren as using "market forces to speed up the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy — reducing the odds of an environmental and financial disaster without spending a dime of taxpayer money."[89]

In her campaign, Harris supports a "Green New Deal", an idea popularized by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.[90]

Health careEdit

Harris supports a universal health care system based on the existing Medicare program, which would eventually cover all Americans.[91] Harris has also called for a total end to private health insurance.[92] Harris later reversed her position on this, with an adviser stating that she is open to "more moderate health reform plans, which would preserve the industry."[93]


Harris is opposed to constructing a wall along the border with Mexico, since proposed by President Trump. She also states she will protect DACA recipients from deportation.[94]



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