“I will be a fighter for the next generation on the critical issues facing our country. I will be a fighter for middle class families who are feeling the pinch of stagnant wages and diminishing opportunity,” she continued. “I will be a fighter for our children who deserve a world-class education, and for students burdened by predatory lenders and skyrocketing tuition. And I will fight relentlessly to protect our coast, our immigrant communities and our seniors.”
Many potential contenders have expressed interest in the post including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer, as well as several members of the California congressional delegation, CNN reported.
Steyer, who has been meeting with potential advisers and labor leaders across the state, would create a steep climb for other challengers with his ability to self-fund. Villaraigosa would be able to draw on his voting base in Southern California and his support in the Latino community.
But Harris’s strong fundraising base in California from her two statewide runs and her close alliance with President Barack Obama, make her one of the most formidable candidates in the race.
Her position was strengthened earlier on Jan 12 when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom bowed out of contention. Speculation had swirled around the possibility of a heated race between Harris, 50, and Newsom, 47, who could have potentially split the Northern California vote, clearing the way for a Southern California candidate like Villaraigosa.
Boxer and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein have both held their Senate seats since 1992 — capping the ambitions of the next generation of politicians including Harris and Newsom.
Newsom has told many confidantes that he is interested in running for governor when Jerry Brown faces term limits in 2018, and he and Harris share the same political consultants. In a statement on his Facebook page, Newsom said it was better “to be candid than be coy” and noted that it would be better for his three children, Montana, Hunter and Brooklynn, if he stayed in California.
Hinting at his potential alliance with Harris, he added that in the months to come, he looked “forward to doing whatever I can to help elect California’s next great Democratic senator—one worthy of succeeding Barbara Boxer and serving this remarkable state of dreamers and doers in the United States Senate.”
The campaign arm of Senate Democrats, which is typically heavily involved in selecting the party’s nominees, signaled strong support for Harris moments after her announcement. “With strong candidates like Kamala Harris Democrats remain confident that we’ll hold this seat and continue Barbara Boxer’s long history of fighting for California. The DSCC will continue to monitor the California Senate race closely,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Justin Barasky said in a statement.
She would likely have a national support base and is said to be favored by powerful national Democratic groups like EMILY’s List.
State Treasurer John Chiang is also considering a bid, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Harris, the former prosecutor in Alameda County and San Francisco, captured the attention of national Democrats when she ran for the state’s top law enforcement position in 2010, overcoming concerns she was too liberal to win statewide. Harris advocates a “Smart on Crime” philosophy, which takes a more holistic and economic approach to crime than a narrow punitive approach, as outlined in a 2009 book ahead of her run. The daughter of Indian mother and Jamaican father, Harris was the first female, first African-American, and first Asian-American attorney general of the Golden State.