Kamala Harris

San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, November 26, 2010

From a political standpoint, Kamala Harris’ upset victory over Steve Cooley for state attorney general was remarkable. He was the district attorney from Los Angeles, which allowed him to start the campaign with a deeper support base and the opportunity to chide the San Francisco district attorney as a caricature of the leftist city she served.

Most analysts regarded Cooley as the surest bet on the Republican ticket, even in a Democratic state. He kept to a meat-and-potatoes platform that emphasized the office’s crime-and-punishment duties – accentuating his eagerness to inflict the death penalty – and to dial back what he regarded as Attorney General Jerry Brown’s aggressive interpretation of his discretion to enforce and ignore laws passed by legislators and voters.

It looked to most pundits, even Democrats, like a winning formula for Cooley.

California voters, however, had other ideas. They chose Harris, the 46-year-old career prosecutor with the more thoughtful and expansive vision of the role of an attorney general. As with Brown, Harris said she would not defend laws she regarded as blatantly unconstitutional (such as Prop. 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage) and would help assure the implementation of the state’s landmark climate-change law. Harris pledged to enforce the state’s death penalty law despite her personal opposition to it – but she repeatedly and correctly reminded voters that it was not the most pressing criminal-justice issue in the state.

Her top priority would be to try new approaches to reducing the state’s unacceptably high recidivism rate, which represents a serious peril to public safety and a steady drain on the state budget.

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