The excitement and adrenaline rush that carried the Kamala Harris camp through a grueling and nail-biting election for attorney general was still very evident as California’s newly-elected top lawyer strode into the Millennium Biltmore Hotel to face supporters and the press Tuesday.

Harris was making her first appearance as the attorney general-elect before a crowd that included political heavyweights such as Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles City council members Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti, Janice Hahn and L.A. controller Wendy Gruel, labor union boss Maria Elena Durazo, as well as state elected leaders such as assemblymen Steve Bradford and Mike Davis.

Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp also lent his presence to the occasion.
Harris’ bid for the office against opponent Steve Cooley went virtually down to the wire. As of Nov. 30, the date all 58 counties were required to submit their canvass of votes to the Secretary of State’s office, Harris had snagged 46.1 percent of ballots cast compared to Cooley’s 45.3 percent. Only 72,883 votes separated the two candidates.

Saying that she thanked Cooley for his leadership and looked forward to working with him in the future, Harris pledged that she would work to represent all of the people of the state and to be tough but smart on crime simultaneously.

Citing the innovative role the state has traditionally played in the nation in terms of public policy, Harris–the first woman, first African American and the first (Asian) Indian American elected to this position–plans to take on issues such as the reform of California’s criminal justice system.

“There are 120,000 inmates released every year, and within three years 70 percent of them have re-offended,” pointed out Harris, who also talked about the strain this $10-25 billion annual this revolving door problem places on the state’s budget.

“We’ve launched re-entry initiatives in San Francisco, not is just a maker of the political will to do them on a broader basis. There has to be the political will, and I will lead that effort.”

Reforming the criminal justice system also includes insuring that small law enforcement agencies, which represents those in most of the state, according to Harris, have access to the resources they need such as crime labs.

Harris said she will also seriously address the issues that impact the state’s environment.
“We should be able to drink clean water and breath clean air,” said Harris.

“And the fraud that is being committed against many Californians regarding mortgages and foreclosure . . . there must be consequences to those who commit fraud against people living the American dream.”

To begin the process of looking at what needs to be done, Harris has assembled a transition team that includes former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, civil rights attorney Constance Rice and former secretaries of state Warren Christopher and George Shultz.

Former California Attorney General Van de Kamp, called Harris’ priorities–reforming the criminal justice system, foreclosure fraud and public integrity on target and suggested also she start the job at home in the A.G.’s office by getting to know everyone there.

“. . . have coffee or tea with them. Get to know them and invite them to offer input on what they think would make the office a better place to work. Then take those ides and respond to them.”

Harris will be sworn into office on Jan. 3, and her plan is to “roll up our sleeves instead of throwing up our hands” to take the state to the next level.