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Kamala Harris Ends Her Presidential Bid: Campaign Week in Review

Dennis Carter

Harris was a strong pro-choice voice in the Democratic field, pushing the policy of federal pre-clearance of state-level restrictions on abortion.

Join Rewire.News for a weekly look at how reproductive health, rights, and justice issues are popping up on the 2020 campaign trail.

Harris Ends 2020 Bid After Leading on Abortion Policy

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) White House run ended this week, but not before she introduced a policy idea for protecting abortion rights attacks in Republican-controlled state legislatures.

Harris, who announced Tuesday that she would suspend her 2020 presidential campaign, was polling around 5 percent in most surveys, according to FiveThirtyEight. She said in a statement that her campaign lacked the financial resources to go on, but that she was “still very much in this fight” to unseat President Trump next November. 

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Harris’ exit from the 2020 race means the next Democratic primary debate stage might not have a candidate of color, the Washington Post reported. The first-term senator and former California attorney general was the third Black woman to seek a major party’s presidential nomination.

“Despite the many stubborn barriers to elected executive office that continue standing over all these years, Senator Harris parlayed her successful record as prosecutor and congressperson into an impressive presidential campaign that put her among the early frontrunners and showed she possessed the experience and leadership skills needed to be president,” Glynda C. Carr, president and CEO of Higher Heights for America PAC, an organization dedicated to electing progressive Black at the federal and statewide levels and as mayors, said in a statement. “She would have been a fearless fighter for the people if circumstances were different and she had been able to continue her race.”

The narrowing Democratic field, Carr separately told Rewire.News, shows the question of a Black woman’s “electability” in the United States remains. “We started out the cycle excited about the most diverse group of candidates [in history]. To be able to see the debate stage look like America, I think, was an important milestone. The next debate stage will show there are still barriers.”

Harris was a strong pro-choice voice in the Democratic field, pushing the policy of federal pre-clearance of state-level restrictions on abortion. The policy was modeled after the federal government pre-clearance of state voting rights restrictions included in the Civil Rights Act. Many 2020 candidates, including those leading the field, supported Harris’ pre-clearance idea as Democrats grapple with how to push back against the onslaught of anti-choice laws that have passed in Republican-controlled state legislatures over the past decade.

“Any law with respect to abortion in a covered jurisdiction will remain legally unenforceable until [the Department of Justice] determines it comports with the standards laid out by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade,” according to Harris’ campaign.

Harris drew progressive ire throughout her 2020 White House run over her record as a district attorney and attorney general in California. Lara Bazelon, a law professor and the former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles, wrote in a January New York Times op-ed that Harris backed “regressive” law enforcement policies, including opposition to marijuana legalization. 

“All too often, she was on the wrong side of that history,” Bazelon wrote. 

Health care became a sticking point for Harris during her run as well. Harris pulled her support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “Medicare for all” legislation, the Times reported. She called her own health-care plan “Medicare for all,” though the program would not eliminate private insurers like Sanders’ version would. Harris’ policy included “a 10-year transition period so that we take the time to ensure that everyone has a plan that works for them.” Sanders’ plan has a four-year phase-in period; implementation would not be left up to a presidential successor. 

Harris’ health-care stance was criticized from all sides, as a spokesperson for Joe Biden’s campaign called her plan a “have-it-every-which-way approach” that’s “a Bernie-Sanders-lite Medicare for all,” NPR reported. 

Julián Castro, a former Obama administration official and presidential candidate, called Harris “one of the most qualified people running” in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday.

Castro criticized media coverage of Harris, saying publications like Politico, the Washington Post, and the New York Times “trashed her campaign.” Media outlets, Castro said, held Harris to a “different standard” than other 2020 Democratic candidates. He called coverage of the Harris campaign “grossly unfair.”

What Else We’re Reading 

Politico reported on the moment that stunned political observers and remains a critical point in Harris’ 2020 presidential bid.

The New York Times documented Pete Buttigieg’s tour of the South, where he met with Black voters. Sixty percent of Black voters in South Carolina “hadn’t heard enough about Mr. Buttigieg to form an opinion.”

Sanders leads the race for the much sought after California primary, according to a poll released Thursday by the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies, conducted for the Los Angeles Times. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) fell to second place, dropping by seven points since September, SFGate reported.

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