Kamala Harris, a first-term senator and former California Attorney-General known for her rigorous questioning of President Donald Trump’s nominees, entered the Democratic presidential race on Monday.
Vowing to “bring our voices together,” Ms Harris would be the first woman to hold the presidency and the second African-American if she succeeds.
“The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values. That’s why I’m running for president of the United States,” the senator representing California said in a video posted on Twitter.
Ms Harris, a daughter of immigrant parents who grew up in Oakland, California, is one of the earliest high-profile Democrats to join what is expected to be a crowded field. She made her long anticipated announcement on Good Morning America in the US.
“I am running for president of the United States,” she said. “And I’m very excited about it.” The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign as she announced her bid.
“They’re the values we as Americans cherish, and they’re all on the line now,” Ms Harris says in the video. “The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values.”
After two terms as district attorney of San Francisco (2004-2011), she was twice elected as Attorney-General of California (2011-2017), becoming not only the first woman but the first black person to serve as chief law enforcement officer of that populous state.
Then in January 2017, she took the oath of office as California’s junior US senator, making her the first woman of South Asian descent (her mother is a Tamil Indian) and only the second black woman senator in American history, after Carol Moseley Braun.
Her focused and often tough-sounding lines of questioning during closely watched Senate hearings reflect her past as a prosecutor.
Ms Harris often proudly recalls that as a prosecutor she fought big banks during the 2008 financial crisis to defend families.
She casts herself as a champion of middle class families “living paycheck to paycheck” and denounces police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men.
Ms Harris launched her presidential as America observes what would have been the 90th birthday of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The timing was a clear signal that the California senator- who has joked that she had a “stroller’s-eye view” of the civil rights movement because her parents wheeled her and her sister Maya to protests — sees herself as another leader in that fight.
She abandoned the formality of launching an exploratory committee, instead going all in on a presidential bid.
She plans a formal campaign launch in Oakland on January 27. The campaign will be based in Baltimore, with a second office in Oakland.
Nearly 22 months before the 2020 election, the battle for the White House is already firming up, as Americans begin to assess who might be the opposition party nominee to challenge Mr Trump for control of the White House.
Ms Harris joins what is expected to be a wide-open race for the Democratic presidential nomination. There’s no apparent frontrunner at this early stage and Ms Harris will face off against several Senate colleagues.
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have both launched exploratory committees. Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are also looking at the race. If Mr Booker enters the race, he and Ms Harris could face a fierce competition for support from black voters.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton, is also considering a campaign. Several other Democrats have already declared their intentions, including former Maryland Representative John Delaney and former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro.