Sen. Kamala Harris officially announced her bid for president in her hometown of Oakland, California on Sunday to a large and passionate crowd, signaling that her campaign is one to watch.
Harris kicked off her speech by mentioning her roots. The California senator is the daughter of two immigrants who were active in the civil rights movement. If elected, Harris would be the first woman, a first African-American woman, and first Indian-American president in U.S. history.
Harris explained that her slogan “Kamala Harris for the people” is a direct reference to her background as a prosecutor. Critics have jumped on this past as the easiest target to draw scrutiny toward the candidate, but Harris’ slogan and speech made clear she sees her prosecutor background as a strength.
“My whole life, I’ve only had one client: the people,” she declared, before drawing comparisons to her work as a prosecutor to what she could so in the White House.
“Fighting for the people meant fighting on behalf of survivors of sexual assault,” Harris said, in one of multiple references to the #MeToo movement in her speech, “a fight not just against predators but a fight against silence and stigma.”
Harris never named President Donald Trump in her address but made obvious nods to his policy. “And folks, on the subject of transnational gangs, let’s be perfectly clear: the President’s medieval vanity project is not going to stop them.”
Harris has fought the Trump administration hard in the past two years, taking the forefront in battles such as dismantling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. But the Democratic senator fell short in many of her challenges, fighting not only Trump but a Republican-held Congress.
“To be sure we’ve won and we’ve lost, but we’ve never stopped fighting,” she said.
Like the other Democratic challengers that have stepped forward so far, Harris made clear that a vote for her was also a vote against Trump.
“We are here because the American Dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before,” she said, adding, “America, we are better than this.”
Harris referenced the Charlottesville riot, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, attacks on the press, and family separation (“don’t you dare call it border security, that’s a human rights abuse”) as some of the ways the country has shifted downward in the past two years.
Harris laid out what looks like a catchphrase marking her campaign: “Speak truth.”
“In this moment, we must all speak truth about what’s happening,” she affirmed. “Seek truth, speak truth and fight for the truth.”
She continued to lay out what she called “truths” in what actually signaled her strongest policy stances: debt-free college, Medicare for all, climate change action, tackling discrimination, and treating the opioid crisis as “a national public health emergency.”
Harris went on to use the word “truth” in her speech 22 times.
“And let’s speak the biggest truth, the biggest truth of all: In the face of powerful forces trying to sow hate and division among us, the truth is that as Americans we have much more in common than what separates us. Let’s speak that truth.”
It wasn’t until over 20 minutes into her address that Harris made the announcement that sparked the loudest and longest cheer from the crowd yet:
“And so, I stand before you today, clear-eyed about the fight ahead and what has to be done — with faith in God, with fidelity to country, and with the fighting spirit I got from my mother. I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.”
Watch the full speech below:
Her speech made it clear Harris is eager to take on Trump, but the California senator faces tough competition in the Democratic primary. Multiple lawmakers such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have already announced their candidacy, and Harris may have to take on candidates with larger name recognition such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.
But Harris’ early and energetic entry into the race has given her a leg up. According to Slate, she raised $1.5 million for the campaign in the first 24 hours of her announcement.