Senator Kamala Harris announced on Martin Luther King Day that she was running as a Democratic candidate for president. As the 2020 presidential cycle becomes more crowded with candidates, Harris stands out. 

Brief History

Harris is an attorney and current U.S. state senator from California. She graduated from the historically-black college/university (HBCU) Howard University. She began receiving political esteem when she became both the first African-American and the first woman to serve as California’s attorney general. Eventually, she ran for Congress with the support of then-President Barack Obama, making her the second black woman to ever serve on the Senate floor. Currently, she sits on their Senate Judiciary committee

Harris has gained nationwide popularity for her fearless grilling of Jeff Sessions and Brett Kavanaugh during their confirmation hearings. She has also been a key figure in the Mueller investigation and has been praised for asking the “tough questions” that other politicians avoided. Also, as an avid critic of Trump, she defined her 2020 campaign run as a fight to “claim our future.” 

"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. I'm running to lift those voices, to bring our voices together," Harris said, reported CNN.

Policies and Criticism

Although Harris falls in line with many key progressive issues — climate change, universal healthcare, affordable tuition and no border wall — her stances on criminal justice are much more conservative. Her record as California’s attorney general has received a lot of criticism from fellow liberals, especially from within black and brown communities, which are disproportionately affected by tough policing

An op-ed titled “The Two Faces of Kamala Harris” dove into her complicated history. On one hand, Harris has furthered many progressive movements, such as ending the California death penalty, lowering the prices of prescription medication and taking on white collar crime in San Francisco like illegal dumping and fraud. Yet, as “top cop,” Harris had several policies that were “right” of the Republican opponent she ran against — most notably, California's three strike law, punishment for sex workers and imprisoning parents for their children’s truancy.

Beyond these professional criticisms, there have also been several nastier takes on Harris's campaign — largely viewed to be guided by "misogynoir," or the hatred of black women. Harris has been slut-shamed for her dating record and had her blackness questioned because she married a white man.

Chances of Success

Harris is the third most popular candidate among Democrats after Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. As the fastest-growing candidate in popularity, it is projected that she may best Joe Biden's overwhelming lead in polls. Since announcing her campaign, she has been bringing in steady media coverage as well as hefty donations.

However, many black candidates still struggle to gain high positions in American politics and this was recently reiterated in the midterm runs of Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams. Harris is at another disadvantage because she is at risk for losing the black vote due to her tenure as a zero-tolerance state prosecutor. Yet, the election cycle is still early and she still remains a key figure in the 2020 Democratic race.