By Yussuf Simmonds, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –
After a long-fought and bruising battle to be the state’s top law enforcement official, Kamala Harris has prevailed to become the next attorney general of California. She will be the first woman and the first African American to be elected to statewide office in more than three decades. A career prosecutor, Harris embarked on a campaign that many thought was insurmountable, but she overcame all the obstacles and barriers that were thrown in her path – and like her campaign slogan stated, she is not only “Smart On Crime,” she is smart.
More than three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Sentinel declared victory on behalf of D.A. Harris in the race for state attorney general, amidst a premature victory press conference call by D.A. Steve Cooley. But, apparently the subsequent counting of the mail-ins and absentee ballots forced Cooley to concede, and he did, recently as he trailed by more than 50,000 votes in what was one of the closest statewide races in California history.
His concession means that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris will be transitioning to the post of California’s next attorney general. And now California Democrats can claim a clean sweep of California statewide offices in the 2010 midterm elections.
Cooley issued the following statement: "While the margin is extremely narrow and ballots are still being counted, my campaign believes that we cannot make up the current gap in the vote count for Attorney General. Therefore, I am formally conceding the race and congratulate Ms. Harris on becoming California's next Attorney General.”
Congresswoman-elect Karen Bass said, “I think this is a wonderful day for the state of California to have an attorney general who focuses on being smart on crime instead of the policies that we’ve had over the last few decades that relied on incarceration in a disproportionate manner to African Americans.”
Assemblyman Mike Davis, a stalwart in the Harris campaign said, “This was a necessary and wonderful struggle to make California what it ought to be. This is a state of a majority of minority culture and we need to have leadership in the state that reflects the people being served. We had two outstanding candidates, who ran for attorney general; both of whom would provide excellent service. But, the uniqueness of what Kamala Harris brings to the table is to give to California the opportunity to have women, and minorities such as African Americans and Indian Americans to demonstrate their ability to be included in the criminal justice system of California in a significant way.”
Former Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, who himself was the last statewide elected office holder said, “The election of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris to the office of California Attorney General is historic. She set an example of running a "smart" campaign by appealing to the public with an intelligent approach, and not demagoguery. She defeated the big money interests of the country, and all Californians could be justly proud of her accomplishments. She will make a great Attorney General.”
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., executive publisher of the Sentinel and Chairman of the NNPA, a strong supporter of Harris was exuberant in hearing the news of her victory: “This is a great day for California and for African Americans. Kamala Harris has demonstrated that she is ready, willing and able to reform the state’s criminal justice system and bring it more in line with the will of the people. Her historic rise from prosecutor to district attorney and now to attorney general is a culmination of her campaign slogan, “Smart on Crime.” She has an innovative approach to fighting crime and has been an advocate for significant changes in current outdated system. She will be an excellent attorney general.”
Chariss Bremond Weaver, president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, issued the following statement: “California cannot thrive unless its communities are equipped to raise healthy, responsible, productive, and joyous children. The challenges facing California’s urban communities are a major hindrance to the achievement of this goal. While there are a lot of people who claim to be “working on” these issues, there are very few of us who are actually working “in them”. Kamala Harris is one of those people. Her understanding of the need for more prevention, redemption and second chances is keenly tempered by her ability to still effectuate prosecution and ensure the guilty are resolved to appropriate consequences. This is a great day in the State of California because we’ve elected an attorney general that equitably represents the needs of all Californians and can effectively transition those needs into action.”
It is important to note that Wilson Riles was the first Black statewide office holder; he was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1971.
And former Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke laid the groundwork for Harris’ victory as she too had run for the office of attorney general of California in 1978.