Capitol Alert

Audio: Kamala Harris says all ‘qualified’ candidates should run

California Attorney General Kamala Harris waves during the Safer Internet Day conference at Facebook in Menlo Park on Tuesday. Harris and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg answered questions from a group of California middle school and high school students, parents and teachers.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris waves during the Safer Internet Day conference at Facebook in Menlo Park on Tuesday. Harris and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg answered questions from a group of California middle school and high school students, parents and teachers. Bay Area News Group

In her first comments since launching a bid for U.S. Senate, Democrat Kamala Harris pushed back against supporters’ calls to keep others out of the race, inviting anyone with the qualifications and desire to challenge her for the seat.

“I absolutely support that,” Harris, the state’s attorney general, said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. “I can’t tell you how many times – both when I first ran for district attorney of San Francisco, and when I ran for attorney general of California – that people told me I shouldn’t, that it wasn’t my time, or I couldn’t. So, I have always rejected that kind of approach.”

Harris’ comments came in response to former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown’s suggestion that former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should stay out of the race out of respect for Harris.

“I have great deal of respect for Antonio and I’ll leave it at that,” Harris said, describing Brown, a former San Francisco mayor, as a friend.

Harris is running to fill the seat coming vacant with the planned retirement of California Sen. Barbara Boxer next year. On the Democratic side, Villaraigosa and several other members of Congress also have expressed interest.

Asked what she was doing to prepare for issues outside the scope of her current job, Harris stressed that “my current job is occupying 100 percent of my focus,” but said she’s working to compile information from the “best and brightest” on federal subjects and starting to identify experts and putting together policy papers.

“For many of these areas I have had an interest, but certainly it’s not been my professional focus,” she said. “So there’s going to be a real learning curve and a lot of work to do.”

With tensions flaring in the Middle East, and President Barack Obama asking Congress for authority to fight militarily the Islamic State, Harris said as a general principle it would be a grave mistake to enter another ground war, but says she supports the idea of putting time limits on any war. “It’s important that we don’t have any more open-ended engagement,” she said.

Calling legalization of recreational marijuana “inevitable,” Harris said she has no moral opposition to legal use of the drug. Then, speaking as the state’s chief law enforcement official, Harris said the state must work out the details for what legalization would mean for children, schools, advertising and various edible forms of pot.

“There is a whole concern about how we would detect to determine impairment for the purposes of legal or illegal driving,” she said in one example of the cautions. “Those are real details and I take seriously when weighing in on a subject such as (this) that we have thought through the details.”

Harris said she supports Democrats’ efforts to block construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“Building a massive pipeline to move Canadian oil just is not a fix,” she said. “And I don’t think it does anything to deal with another real issue that we have to be invested in, which is reduction of dependence on foreign oil.

Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.

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