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Former Washington Journalist
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Despite a strong early launch into the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, most public opinion polls find Sen. Kamala Harris of California has fallen into the middle of a crowded pack of Democratic hopefuls — and well behind either of her two rivals who reasonably claim any frontrunner status, either former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
With just weeks to go until the first debate among the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination but months before the first votes are cast, Harris maintains an upbeat attitude.
“I’m going to win, and I fully intend to win. I will tell you that the voters in my experience are smarter than a lot of folks give them credit for,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “The voters — and I know this in my experience having one for the offices I’ve run for. When I was the first in every one of those positions, when there was no one like me who had done the job and people would say, ‘Oh, they’re not ready for that. Oh, no one like her has done it before. Oh, it’s not your time. Oh, it’s going to be a lot of hard work.’ And I didn’t listen. As far as I’m concerned, my track record on this issue tells me the voters are smarter than hearing and listening to all that noise. What they want is they want somebody who has a genuine interest in representing them as opposed to self-interest.”
Dealing with the epidemic of gun violence is an issue Harris said would be a priority in her administration. There are many great ideas to address the problem, but what’s lacking is political will, said Harris, who was California state attorney general before becoming a US senator in 2017.
“People have been having good ideas for decades on this issue. What we’re at a loss is people in Congress have the courage to do something. I’m going to tell you on this subject, we’re not waiting for the worst tragedy because we’ve seen the worst of tragedies including what happened this week and seeing the heroism of a child who we now mourn his loss, his parents’ only child. We’re not waiting for tragedies and great ideas. Universal background check? Good idea. You might want to know if someone has been proven to be a danger for themself or others before they can buy a lethal weapon,” Harris said. “Let me tell you what I’m proposing. I’m proposing, one, if by my 100th day in office when elected president of the United States, the United States Congress fails to put a bill on my desk to sign with all of the good ideas or any of the good ideas that I’m prepared to take executive action because that’s what’s needed.”
Harris also reaffirmed her support for single-payer, universal-healthcare Medicare-for-all legislation, including to cover undocumented immigrants.
“I’m opposed to any policy that would deny in our country any human being from access to public safety, public education or public health, period,” she said.
However, just as rival Sanders has in recent weeks, Harris has taken shots to differentiate herself from pack leader Biden.
And, like Sanders, Harris hit Biden for his support in the 1990s to approve the NAFTA North American free trade zone.
“I would not have voted for NAFTA,” Harris said, adding, “I believe we can do a better job to protect American workers.”
She also criticized Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill, when he oversaw her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas during the hearings for the Thomas nomination to the Supreme Court in 1991.
There is “no question” that Joe Biden’s Senate Judiciary Committee “did not do right by Anita Hill,” Harris said, adding, “He said it himself.”
However, Harris found herself on the defensive for a decade-old California truancy program which ended up jailing the parents of students who skipped school.
“We’re going to get in the weeds, but give me the patience of time to explain it. When I was looking at the issue of truancy, I realized we defined truancy as three or four unexcused absences you’re truant. I was seeing kids missing 80 of 180 days,” Harris said. “What ended up happening is by changing the education code, it referenced the penal code. That was an unintended consequence. If I could do it over again, I would have made sure it would not have increased penalties for the ability to prosecute anywhere in the state to prosecute parents. That was never the intention and it was never anything I did.”