Nearly a month after California voters headed to the polls, the race for Attorney General seems to finally be over. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris narrowly beat out Steve Cooley, the District Attorney for Los Angeles. The victory makes Harris, whose mother is Indian American and father is Jamaican, the first African American, Indian and woman to hold the office in California.

In a midterm election dominated by stories of republican gains, the race also had important national implications. The victory rounded out a democratic sweep of state offices in California. As of November 23, Harris had captured 46 percent of the vote, compared to Cooley’s 45 percent, leading the latter to finally concede the race after his campaign admitted that he was unlikely to gather enough votes to close the gap. Cooley was the only Republican candidate for statewide office to avoid losing by double digits.

Harris was once labeled the “female Barack Obama”, and won the race with an uncharacteristically progressive platform. She’s openly opposed to the death penalty; in fact, she refused to pursue capital punishment during her eight year tenure as DA in San Francisco, but has vowed that as Attorney General she’ll do “what’s necessary.” She’s also come out in favor of gay marriage, an that will likely be one of her first once she takes office.

Harris’ innovative approach to crime also won over supporters. During her time in San Francisco’s top office, she pioneered “Changing the Odds”, a program that worked to combat juvenile crime by offering young people charged with non-violent crimes three month paid internships in exchange for guilty pleas.

“The program is designed to prepare these young men and women to successfully re-enter their communities with the skills and support necessary to obtain gainful employment,” according to the San Francisco district attorney’s website.

Despite well-earned criticism, at least some of Harris’ efforts seem largely successful. During the campaign Harris spoke openly about wanting to expand it statewide, and it looks like now she’ll have her chance.

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Harris’ top priority will be to curb the state’s shamefully high recidivism rate, which puts an added strain on an already bare-bones budget.

Read this online at http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/11/kamala_harris_beats_the_odds.html


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