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Kamala Harris Bags a String of Early Endorsers

High-profile nods could tip donors and bundlers toward the frontrunner

By Evan Gahr, February 19, 2019 6:15 am

Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris for President during an interview with Chris Hayes on Feb 15, 2019. (MSNBC)

California Senator Kamala Harris received endorsements for her presidential bid late last week from Governor Gavin Newsom and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), a former Congressional Black Caucus chair.

Will these high-profile nods actually do her any good among primary voters?

Toward the end of his interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC Friday night, Newsom said, “I’m very enthusiastic about Kamala Harris. I’ve known her for decades, not only as district attorney where she did an extraordinary job with a very progressive record, but I watched her up close as lieutenant governor, when she served as attorney general, and I have the privilege of working with her as a U.S. senator.”

“I think the American people could not do better,” he concluded.

On Thursday, Barbara Lee became the first member of the 55-member Black Congressional Caucus to endorse Harris. Cory Booker, a member like Kamala Harris, is also running for president.

Lee said that Harris was following in the tradition of the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first black major party presidential candidate and the first woman to seek the Democratic nomination. (Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith sought the GOP nomination in 1964).

Lee declared in her statement, “Shirley set us on a path toward progress, and now Senator Kamala Harris picks up the baton. As just the third African American woman from a major party to run for President, I am so proud to endorse her candidacy as she continues this fight for equality, fairness, and dignity for all Americans. … Watching Kamala’s career in the East Bay and San Francisco for 20 years, I’ve witnessed her deep passion for justice and opportunity, and I know she will be a president truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.

“She will increase working Americans’ incomes, expand health insurance to more Americans, and restore dignity and responsibility to the Oval Office. She is a leader uniquely qualified to bring us together and mobilize a movement of Americans to return power to the people.”

Harris last week was endorsed by the revered labor and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. She and Newsom and Lee will serve as co-chairs of the Harris California campaign, according to POLITICO.

Harris is already backed by California Representative Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), freshman Representative Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) and Congresswoman Nanette Barragán, who represents South Los Angeles. Senator Dianne Feinstein, however, has said she supports Joe Biden for president.

Sonoma State political science professor David McCuan told the California Globe that it’s too early to know whether all the endorsements are going to make a difference to primary voters. But they give her presidential campaign momentum and makes it more attractive to donors, especially bundlers, who are always looking for a winner.

“Donors act in strategic ways,” he explained. “They look to other donors for ‘winners’ and for which candidate to back especially in a crowded field. Donors want to know which horse to put their money on and to get into that game early.”

He added that the endorsement by Barbara Lee, a highly-regarded former Congressional Black Caucus chair, could lead to endorsements by other CBC members.  Influential CBC members include Representative Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and civil rights icon John Lewis D-GA).

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly listed Congresswoman Rep. Karen Bass among Sen. Harris’ endorsers. California Globe regrets the error.

Evan Gahr

Evan Gahr was the Washington Gadfly columnist for the Daily Caller and press critic for New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel.
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