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Kamala D. Harris: in search of justice

Lisa Olivia Fitch | 10/3/2012, 5 p.m.

After winning what was described as a "razor close" election for California attorney general in 2010, Kamala Devi Harris and her team have been busy tackling issues as wide-ranging as truancy, transnational gangs, Medi-Cal recovery and mortgage fraud in a state so large that she sometimes flies six planes a week to cover it all--from her air-conditioned Sacramento offices to the air-conditioned tunnels in Calexico designed for trafficking guns, drugs and humans under the border.

But somehow, the state's 32nd attorney general was able to squeeze in a little extra job as national co-chair of the campaign to reelect President Barack Obama.

"I have a long history of supporting President Obama and when I was asked to be co-chair, I absolutely said yes," Harris said during a recent phone interview. "I was also co-chair of the rules committee for the convention. There's a lot we have to get done and I'll do whatever I have to."
Harris said she was humbled and honored to be asked to speak during prime time and represent California at the Democratic National Convention. In fact, when they held a mic check in the empty arena beforehand she shouted "Where's the California delegation?"

As the presidential debates got under way last night, some believed that President Obama would try and take down his opponent with a negative attack. But Harris thought differently.

"I think the president is going to present a clear message of going forward as a country," Harris said during the interview several days earlier. "I think we're going to hear the words and see the man who is Barack Obama, and it's going to be about a plan for the country and about someone who has a connection with all people. He has empathy and understanding."

In her speech from the convention stage, Harris illustrated the stark differences between the two presidential candidates.

"I believe Mitt Romney would roll back rules that prevent the kind of recklessness that got our economy in this mess in the first place," she told the gathering in Charlotte, N.C.

"President Obama stood with me and 48 other attorneys-general in taking on the banks and winning $25 billion for struggling homeowners," she said, referring to the National Mortgage Settlement against five big banks--Ally, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank and Chase. "That's leadership!"

"Obama will fight to level the economic playing field, while Romney has a philosophy that tilts the playing field to help the wealthiest few," she added. "He subscribes to the cynical logic that the American dream belongs to only some of us."

The AG is a member of an accomplished family. Her parents met while they were both active in the Civil Rights Movement. Her mother, Shyamala (Gopalan) Harris, Ph.D., was a renowned breast cancer researcher. She was born in the Tamil state of southern India, graduated from Delhi University at 19, and earned her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley at 25. Her Jamaican American father, Donald Harris, is a Stanford University economics professor. They divorced when Kamala was very young.