Capitol Alert

She has her eye on 2020 and Trump. But first this California senator is lending a hand in 2018.

Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom and more speak on future of party at California Democratic Party convention

Top California Democrats spoke about their candidacies and the future of the Democratic Party at the 2018 California Democratic Party convention on Feb. 24, 2018. Here is a sampling. Video courtesy California Democratic Party.
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Top California Democrats spoke about their candidacies and the future of the Democratic Party at the 2018 California Democratic Party convention on Feb. 24, 2018. Here is a sampling. Video courtesy California Democratic Party.

She’s been in the Senate for just over a year, but California Democrat Kamala Harris has been quickly making friends.

Through the first quarter of 2018, which ended March 31, Harris has helped raise campaign cash for all 26 of the Senate Democrats up for reelection in November. She’s also raised money for two Democrats gunning to unseat Republican senators in Arizona and Nevada.

According to her staff, Harris’ efforts – via her political action committee, her email list and by lending her voice to other Democratic party committees and groups – have brought in more than $3 million for her colleagues up for election this fall.

They’ve also taken her to parts of the country that will be pivotal in the 2020 presidential race, a contest Harris herself is widely expected to join. On Saturday, California’s junior senator will headline a sold-out Michigan Democratic Party dinner in Detroit and attend a fundraiser for Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Later this month, Harris heads to Wisconsin to fundraise for another incumbent running in 2018, Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Along with Pennsylvania, those Rust Belt states unexpectedly handed Trump victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. The party’s hopes of winning back the White House in 2020 hinge on doing better in what had been, until the final days of the 2016 contest, considered Democratic-leaning territory.

The Michigan Democratic Party alluded to Harris’ possible national future in a release announcing the event. “Honoring the Legacy of Women in Politics in 2018 is about looking toward the road ahead as much as celebrating the path that got us to where we are now,” it said.

Over the past six months, Harris has also made trips to three other presidential swing states, attending multiple fundraisers for vulnerable Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, as well as a state party forum in Nevada. She also headlined a fundraiser for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island last October.

“She worked really hard, she was very effective,” Brown said of Harris’ fundraising visit to Ohio. “People really liked her.”

The senator’s appearances on the 2018 fundraising circuit are a win-win for both the candidates she’s supporting and for Harris, herself. Brown and other vulnerable incumbents benefit from Harris’ star power – fanned by her headline-making back-and-forths with Trump officials last year – and her ties to California’s deep-pocketed donors. Harris, meanwhile, gets a chance to make inroads with key segments of the party around the country, while earning the appreciation of influential lawmakers and party pooh-bahs in Washington for all the time she’s invested on their behalf.

Harris has made fundraising pitches on e-mails sent out by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its Senate and House fundraising arms. She also headlined a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in California in February, and will headline the DNC’s Women Leadership Forum dinner in D.C. on May 18. One Democratic party official attested that the fundraising emails the party sends out with Harris’ name attached have been a particular draw with donors.

In an age when the reach of a candidate’s e-mail list is a measure of their viability, that could help her 2020 chances.

Emily Cadei: 202-383-6153, @emilycadei

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