Kamala Harris Ready To Enter Race For President, Sources Say


Sen. Kamala Harris has decided to run for president in 2020 and will announce her candidacy on or around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, probably at a campaign rally in Oakland, sources close to the freshman senator from California tell KCBS Radio.

Harris, 54, has been making the rounds of television talk shows and appearing at several events this week as part of a brief tour to promote her new book, "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey."

At every stop, when asked about running for president, Harris has answered with some variation of "I'm not ready yet" to announce her decision, citing family considerations. But several sources knowledgeable about her plans say she is ready, and has in fact decided to run, with the enthusiastic blessing of her husband and two stepchildren.

The debate within her camp is how, and where, to launch her campaign. The tentative plan is for Harris to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with a campaign rally, most likely in Oakland, where she was born and began her legal career.

Harris risks appearing indecisive, or worse, disingenuous, if she demurs about her plans much longer, warns veteran Democratic strategist Darry Sragow, the publisher of the nonpartisan California Target Book, who teaches political science at USC.

"If she really has decided to run," said Sragow, "my advice would be, announce. Don't drag this out."

Harris' team wants maximum exposure for her campaign kickoff, and has been scouting for a telegenic location that could give her a "Springfield moment" akin to Barack Obama's campaign launch in 2007 at the Old State Capitol in Illinois.

Harris' advisors want to avoid identifying her too closely with San Francisco, where she first made her political mark as a two-term district attorney.

"San Francisco is viewed as a very nutty place by people outside of California, and frankly, by a lot of people inside California," Sragow said.

Berkeley, where Harris was raised before her parents divorced and she moved with her mother and sister to Montreal, Canada, has also been dismissed by her strategists as not projecting the image they're looking for. That leaves Oakland, where Harris was born, and where she returned after law school to become a deputy district attorney for Alameda County.

"I'm not sure what Oakland's image is around the country these days," said Sragow, but the city, one of the nation's most diverse, is seen as on the rise. Launching her national campaign there would let Harris emphasize her roots and identify with the hardscrabble city's gritty energy, creativity and even the Golden State Warriors, who've won three NBA championships since 2015. 

The sources caution that Harris' planned rollout is still being finalized. The location and timing could change. But the current plan is for Harris to throw her hat into the ring sometime over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, perhaps even on MLK Day itself, which is Monday, January 21.

Sragow notes that as a statewide official whose husband is a prominent Los Angeles attorney, Harris could announce her candidacy anywhere in the state, from L.A. to Sacramento to Silicon Valley.

But the sources tell KCBS Radio the Bay Area is the preferred backdrop. The next stop would probably be Iowa, where Harris would go on an introductory campaign swing to begin in earnest her quest for the White House.