Attorney General Kamala Harris, an adept lawyer and polished politician, is the clear choice to replace Barbara Boxer as California’s next U.S. senator.
Harris has the potential to become a national leader on the liberal side of many issues, especially on matters related to the judiciary. That one issue is probably the most important reason to send her to Washington.
If she is elected, Harris could be expected to use her background as a line prosecutor and attorney general to help shape the national debate over U.S. Supreme Court nominations, and maybe even leaven the partisanship that has come to engulf the process.
Californians might have expected to have a more serious contest for the seat that Boxer has held since 1992. But Republicans failed to field a major candidate and Harris cleared the field of most Democrats, with the exception of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, an Orange County Democrat.
Sanchez, who has served in Congress for 20 years, has run a disappointing campaign, showing herself to be thin-skinned, and displaying little grasp of issues beyond her region. She also has become known for her less than senatorial demeanor by, for example, breaking into an odd dance move after answering a question during the one debate she has had with Harris.
In Harris, Californians would have an advocate for pay equity, privacy, consumer and environmental protection, women’s health, gun control, and workers’ rights.
Sanchez, who has served in Congress for 20 years, has run a disappointing campaign, showing herself to be thin-skinned, and displaying little grasp of issues beyond her region.
As attorney general, Harris pushed to protect California’s interest in nationwide litigation over the mortgage meltdown, and has taken stands in favor of government transparency and sensible gun control.
Unfortunately, she was cautious, giving the impression that she was thinking less about being a great attorney general and more about her next office. She has offered superficial if not slanted analyses of criminal justice ballot measures, and has failed to take stands on issues relevant to her office, including the expansion of online gambling and criminal justice realignment.
Although she favors marijuana legalization, Harris has offered little insightful critique of Proposition 64, the legalization initiative championed by her friend, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and funded by one of her benefactors, billionaire Sean Parker.
Harris, who previously served as San Francisco district attorney, spends much of her time in San Francisco and in Southern California, the sources of many of her votes and campaign money. But senators represent the entire state.
She would do well to accept pointers from a fellow San Franciscan, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and become immersed in hard issues that matter to the Central Valley, including water, agriculture and economic development.
Harris has the potential to become a fine senator. If voters honor her by electing her to the U.S. Senate, we hope she repays them by using her skills to take bold stands for their benefit.