LOS ANGELES, California — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) received a raucous welcome on home turf on Sunday, as her campaign held its first organizing rally of the 2020 Democratic primary at Los Angeles Southwest College.
Roughly 2,000 supporters and curious Democratic voters attended, filling one half of the gymnasium on a windy weekend afternoon. Harris was preceded by several local politicians who have endorsed her, including Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson; California Secretary of State Alex Padilla; and first-term Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA).
“We are at an inflection moment in the history of our country,” Harris told the crowd. It is a time, she said, for Americans to ask: “Who are we?”
The answer, she said, had to be: “We are better than this.”
Signs throughout the audience riffed on the campaign’s “For the People” slogan, including “Justice for the people” and “Fearless for the people.”
There were some hiccups at the event — a sign of the trouble the campaign has had finding its stride.
The crowd was placed to the side of the stage, meaning that Harris’s supporters were out of most camera angles during her speech. Speakers kept urging supporters to text “fight” to a devoted campaign number, but a sign on the podium told supporters to text the word “fearless.” And after several lively warmup speeches, the action paused for several minutes while Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” played over the PA system.
Harris referred to the Charlottesville riots, and the recent synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway, in calling on her supporters to “speak out” against hate.
“Let’s speak truth: America’s economy is not working for working people,” she added, reprising her message from Nevada last week. She mocked the idea that the economy is “great,” saying it was “fine if you own stocks.” She also claimed that unemployment numbers were good because people were “working two or three jobs to put food on the table.” She added that women earn “80 cents on the dollar” compared to men, and vowed to force companies to close the gap.
Harris also promised to repeal President Donald Trump’s tax cuts on “day one” in office, and said health care was a “right.” She added: “Women’s access to reproductive health care is under attack.
“And we will not stand for it,” she declared, to loud cheers and stomps in the bleachers.
She also talked up gun control, saying that children should not have to ask, “Why, Mommy and Daddy,” when faced with the prospect of school shootings.
She drew cheers by interjecting: “Or — ‘Why, Mommy and Mommy?’ or ‘Daddy and Daddy’?”
If elected, she said, she would give Congress “one hundred days to pull their act together” on gun control. And if it did not, she would use an executive action to impose background check requirements on anyone selling more than five guns a year.
She added that America needed criminal justice reform because people could be shot “because of the color of [their] skin.”
She also addressed immigration policy — “Separating babies from their parents at the border is not border security” — and declared that “climate change is real.”
She added, to cheers, that “Russia interfered in the election” in 2016, and slammed President Trump for accepting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of U.S. intelligence agencies.
And Harris closed with a call to national unity that has become her refrain on the campaign trail, noting that “the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us.”
California’s primary will be more important in 2020 than in previous years, after the state moved it from June to March. It will be held on Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020 — the fifth primary contest of the election cycle.
Some in the audience were committed Harris voters; others were unsure.
Rame Shor, a professor at the college, told Breitbart News that he was supporting Harris because “she has better experience” than other candidates. He added that he believes she can catch former vice president Joe Biden, who currently leads in the polls by double-digit margins, because of what he called her strong level of grassroots support.
Gaby Mohaupt of Los Angeles was unsure if she would vote for Harris, but told Breitbart News that she would back any candidate that stood for pro-choice policies against the recent spate of pro-life legislation in Republican states.
“I’m open-minded,” she said, “but leaning toward a woman.”
Emmett Keith-Jones, a PTA official from Riverside County, drove to L.A. from Temecula to attend the event. He said he would support Harris because he had met her personally, and because “she understands the diversity of California.”
Asked about Biden’s lead, he said, “I don’t think that matters much.
“It’s just like with Obama. We just need Oprah to say something,” he joked.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.