US senator with Jamaican heritage opens presidential bid

US senator with Jamaican heritage opens presidential bid

WASHINGTON, DC, United States Senator Kamala Harris, (Democrat, California), speaks to members of the media at her alma mater, Howard University, in Washington, following her announcement earlier in the morning that she will run for president. Vowing to “bring our voices together” Harris would be the first woman to hold the presidency and the second African-American if she succeeds. (Photo: AP)

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — Kamala Harris, a first-term senator with Jamaican roots and former California attorney general known for her rigorous questioning of President Donald Trump’s nominees, entered the Democratic presidential race yesterday. If she succeeds, Harris would be the first woman to hold the presidency and the second African-American.

Harris, 54, who grew up in Oakland, California, is one of the earliest high-profile Democrats to join what is expected to be a crowded field.

She made her long anticipated announcement on ABC‘s Good Morning America.

“I am running for president of the United States,” she said. “And I’m very excited about it.”

Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, faced at least one question about her heritage yesterday. When a reporter, who noted she is both African-American and Indian-American, asked how she would describe herself, Harris replied: “How do I describe myself? I describe myself as a proud American. That’s how I describe myself.”

She portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign as she announced her bid. “They’re the values we as Americans cherish, and they’re all on the line now,” Harris says in the video. “The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values.”

On ABC, she cited her years as a prosecutor in asserting: “My entire career has been focused on keeping people safe. It is probably one of the things that motivates me more than anything else.”

Harris launched her presidential bid as the nation observes what would have been the 90th birthday of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The timing was a clear signal that the California senator — who has joked that she had a “stroller’s-eye view” of the civil rights movement because her parents wheeled her and her sister Maya to protests — sees herself as another leader in that fight.

The opening hours of Harris’ campaign included a number of cultural touchstones aside from her decision to announce her bid on the Martin Luther King Jr holiday. Staffers said her timing, and the design and colour of her campaign logo, were a nod to Shirley Chisholm, the New York congresswoman who sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination 47 years ago this week. Upon returning to Washington, Harris spoke to reporters at Howard University, the historically black college that she attended as an undergraduate and yesterday described as “one of the most important aspects of my life”.

She skipped the formality of forming an exploratory committee, instead going all in on a presidential bid.

She plans a formal campaign launch in Oakland on January 27. The campaign will be based in Baltimore, with a second office in Oakland.

Harris joins what is expected to be a wide-open race for the Democratic presidential nomination. There’s no apparent front-runner at this early stage, and Harris will face off against several Senate colleagues.

Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have both formed exploratory committees. Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are also looking at the race.

If Booker enters the race, he and Harris could face fierce competition for support from black voters.

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