By Chris Levister –
She’s brilliant, she’s ambitious, she’s tough and she’s unlike anything you’ll see on Law & Order. They call Kamala Harris the ‘female Barack Obama’ and lately a lot of people from Oprah Winfrey to President Barack Obama are singing the praises of the woman who wants to be California’s next attorney general.
With a 90 percent conviction rate super star prosecutor Kamala Harris made history in 2003 when she was elected California’s first African-American female district attorney.
“Law enforcement has such a direct impact on the most vulnerable members of our society and I wanted to be at the table when the decisions are made that affect them,” says Harris.
Kamala Harris is mixed race, thus her current position gives her three firsts — she is the first female District Attorney to be elected in San Francisco; the first African American elected as District Attorney in California; and the first Indian American elected to the position in the United States.
If she has her way in 2010, she would be breaking even more glass ceilings.
She would be the state’s first female Attorney General and the first, in decades, who started out in the trenches as a courtroom prosecutor. She was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term in November 2007.
Harris was born in Oakland, California, her parents both professors were active in the Civil Rights Movement and instilled in Kamala a strong commitment to justice and public service.
That commitment led Kamala to Howard University, one America’s oldest Black universities and then to Hastings College of the Law. She was raised with her sister Maya in Berkeley by their mother Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer specialist.
DA Harris believes it is her duty to nurture the next generation of young women who dream of following in her footsteps.
“My mother who was a very strong influence in my life always said ‘Kamala you may be the first to do many things but make sure you’re not the last’.”
Harris is a strong advocate of identifying and implementing strategies for reducing gang violence and victimization. Two weeks ago, the Democrat, a long time friend of President Obama and a very early supporter of his presidential campaign got a boost in her bid for California’s top cop.
Harris was picked for a star role at the National Conference on Gang Violence Prevention and Crime Control, where she discussed her “Back on Track” low level drug offender re-entry initiative and anti truancy work.
She was part of a select group of mayors, district attorneys including San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and San Bernardino County District Attorney A. Michael Ramos, academics, criminal justice experts and violence prevention experts – including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama Administration drug czar Gil Kerikowske.
“Many cities in California are facing vicious and growing gang activity, and across the nation communities are being held hostage by gang-related violence. I’m honored to be a part of the national strategy to combat this serious issue,” she said.
“She lights up a room the way then little-known Barack Obama did when he gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.”
That’s Jose Medina, delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and co-founder of Obama Riverside, the formidable grassroots organization that helped propel Mr. Obama to the White House. Kamala, Medina says is among a new crop of young, Democratic professionals – ‘bright, fair, and tough as nails’. Though Harris has generated controversy and made a few formidable enemies in law enforcement circles, she has remained firm in her opposition to the death penalty and is unafraid to stand down the likes of those involved in sexual exploitation of children, corrupt cops and parents whose children are truants.
“I’m especially proud of creating a child assault unit dedicated to prosecuting those kinds of cases because I can see the impact it has on children, families and society in general,” said Harris.
Harris also has boundless ambition, as a candidate for state Attorney General in 2010, she hopes to bring her “smart on crime” approach—which has resulted in a marked increase in homicide clearance rates in San Francisco to one of California’s most important and visible offices.
“I’ve spent my entire professional life in the trenches as a courtroom prosecutor. And I can tell you from the frontlines, we need tough new ideas for strengthening our criminal justice system in California. As Attorney General, I will fight for all Californians – from distressed homeowners to families whose neighborhoods are under siege. With the cooperation of state, federal and local officials we can fight street gangs, go after subprime lenders and others responsible for the financial crisis.
We can fundamentally reform our prison system,” said Harris.
She would replace Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, the former Oakland mayor and California governor, who is expected to run for governor in 2010.
“It takes a lot of guts to stand up for what you think is right in the political world, especially when faced with high-level pressure,” said Medina.
Spring 2010, Medina and Obama Riverside co- founder Linnie Frank Bailey hope to bring the Harris excitement to Riverside believing people need to be reminded that there are many more shining stars like Barack Obama out there.