Kamala Harris wins in California, creates history: first Indian American in US Senate

Harris beats challenger Loretta Sanchez.kamala-harris

First there was Dilip Singh Saund, the son of Punjabi immigrants, who got elected to the US congress. Then came Bobby Jindal, who made the community proud as the first Indian American Governor of an US state, in Louisiana, after becoming a Congressman. Now, Kamala Harris, the daughter of parents of Indian and African American-origin, has made it to the US Senate from California, signaling yet another landmark for the community.

In beating her challenger, Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Harris, who is a Democrat herself and till her victory the Attorney General of California, made history as the state’s first new U.S. senator in 24 years. Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, becomes only the second black woman ever elected to the Senate.

As of this post going online, Harris had garnered 67% of the vote, with more than 1.9 million votes in her kitty.

The Harris-Sanchez Senate race was the first major test of California’s “top-two” primary system, an experiment in democracy that California voters approved in 2010 in an effort to reduce the highly partisan influence of the Democratic and Republican parties and give independents and moderates more clout in the political process, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Harris, the first woman elected as California attorney general, will succeed Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is retiring after serving four terms in the U.S. Senate.

In the final days of her campaign, Harris was hopping from cities of San Diego to Los Angeles, making every effort to make sure all votes get deposited in the ballot box of the Democrats.

Harris was born to the Indo-Jamaican parents who migrated to the US during the civil rights movement. Her mother Shyamala, of Indian-origin, and father Donald earned degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and soon become part of the movement. Young Harris grew up witnessing her parents raising slogans for justice. She and her sister Maya Harris spent their childhood more with adults who were committed to community service.

Harris has often credited her drive for social service to have been inculcated by her 1st-grade teacher Mrs. Wilson who helped the women and children in the community to live in dignity.

Harris was attracted by the thoughts of Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Constance Baker Motley – the architects of the Civil Rights Movement and decided to be a lawyer to uphold the interests of the voiceless, making sure that justice is delivered to them.

Harris got her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University, and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and always wanted to be a prosecutor, to help the downtrodden – children, immigrants, women, the poor; people subject to hate crimes.

In 2003, Harris became the first woman, and the first South Asian District Attorney of San Francisco by defeating the eight-year-in-office incumbent.

Harris also authored a book during this period titled “Smart on Crime”, providing an insight into the modernization in criminal justice and details about how to implement it in San Francisco.

In 2010, Harris ran for the San Francisco District Attorney post and defeated her Republican opponent to become California’s 32nd Attorney General. She was the first woman, the first African-American, and the first South Asian to hold the office of District Attorney.

As Attorney General of California, Harris created the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-entry at the California Department of Justice.  This was aimed at improving public safety by focusing on combating recidivism. She also created the Bureau of Children’s Justice to institutionalize my longstanding work of protecting children.

Harris is married to California attorney Douglas Emhoff, the partner-in-charge at Venable LLP’s Los Angeles office. They got married in 2014.

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