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I’d say we’re friends (at least until she reads this story), but she remains enigmatic to me. Her extended family and friends, for the most part, clam up about her.While a source in her office says she has not been doing many journalistic interviews — despite requests ranging from Vanity Fair to “The View” — she agreed to two 30-minute phone interviews with me for this story because she knows me and knows she can use this magazine to speak to California.She’s worried about wearing her personal experiences on her sleeve.And, I’m guessing, she’s fearful of being pigeonholed as something other than who she is, which is a complex equation.
She and her younger sister, Maya, shuttled from Oakland to their dad’s house in a mostly white Peninsula neighborhood, where kids wouldn’t play with the black Harris girls. Who wouldn’t want to know how to change that world?
As someone who’s her friend, I see she has a very courageous, almost empathetic, force about her.” Sonoma State political science professor Dave Mc Cuan calls her “the Democrats’ badass.” Harris, a leading Congressional proponent of the Dream Act, which would grant work permits and deportation protection to thousands of undocumented immigrants’ children, spoke in favor of it at a rally at UC Irvine last October. She rocks back and forth on her heels, arms jabbing and grabbing in all the air and force she can summon, with her words delivered in an evangelical cadence that can burn down the house — with passion flying off her like sprays of sweat.
THE TRANSFORMATION Given Harris’ reputation for keeping it elegant but cool, this feels like part of a larger transformation. Her core interests haven’t changed: criminal justice reform, immigration, civil rights, inequality.
Recently, a Business Insider story referred to her as “an establishment centrist” Democrat.
Meantime, California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte describes Harris as “an ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat.” But Brulte is also a political pro who can express grudging admiration, and he praises her toughness and drive in her campaigns for attorney general and the Senate. It’s as if she was born to take on these existential quandaries.