While Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary in Alameda County (which includes Oakland) by 3.4 percentage points, the battle was especially fierce here. Clinton seemed to pour gasoline on that still smoldering fire in a 2017 interview in which she decried attacks against Harris made by some of Sanders’s supporters.
“It feeds into sexism and misogyny,” Clinton said. “She’s being attacked by the left. Enough. If you don’t support Democrats, go somewhere else.”
Oakland resident Tony Lewis, 60, a retiree, said he voted for Sanders in 2016 to send a progressive message but won’t vote for the Vermont senator if he runs in 2020.
Yahoo News reported Friday that Sanders had made a decision to enter the race, probably as early as this week.
“I wasn’t a strong supporter of Sanders last time around,” Lewis said. “My sense is he’s probably less viable this time around than he was four years ago.”
Instead, Lewis is choosing between Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, viewing both as “on the progressive end of the scale.”
A 53-year-old Oakland resident named Tiara, who described her profession as that of someone who “wears many hats,” said she was all in for Harris.
“I like her strength,” Tiara said. “I’m looking for something new. Something fresh. That’s why I’m here today, to feel empowered.”
The first big Democratic rally of the 2020 presidential campaign, the Oakland kickoff found its stride when Harris began going after President Trump.
While she warned the crowd that the U.S. needed to address the serious threat posed by international drug cartels, she was quick to add a disclaimer about Trump’s demand for a wall on the border with Mexico: “The president’s medieval vanity project is not going to stop them” received a rousing ovation.
In a section of her stump speech devoted to drawing a clear distinction between herself and Trump, Harris ticked off a list of items that fell under the rubric “not our America.
“When we have leaders who bully and attack a free press and undermine our democratic institutions, that’s not our America,” Harris said. “When white supremacists march and murder in Charlottesville or massacre innocent worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, that’s not our America. When we have children in cages, crying for their mothers and fathers, don’t you dare call that border security, that’s a human rights abuse. And that’s not our America!”
Harris said she would run on a platform including universal pre-K and “debt-free college.” She said she hoped to restructure the tax code, giving middle-income earners a large break and and reversing the 2017 tax cut on corporations and the wealthy.
The media attention to her rally and her impressive fundraising haul in the first week of her campaign (she took in over $1.5 million in the first 24 hours after announcing her candidacy) suggest she is off to a fast start.
A Morning Consult/Politico poll of potential Democratic contenders taken Jan. 18 to Jan. 22 puts Harris in third place, behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders. Warren was tied for fourth place with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
“She seems to be more in touch with the public, in what we want,” said Paula, a 33-year-old from Oakland who works in the financial industry and declined to give her last name. “She knows politics and that’s what we need, someone who can run the country competently.”
As the rally broke up, two young men held up signs. “Kamala chose not to release nonviolent drug offenders,” one sign read. Another read, “Kamala chose not to prosecute Mnuchin” — a reference to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who made a large profit from his investment in failed California mortgage lender IndyMac, later called OneWest Bank. As attorney general, Harris resisted calls to bring charges against him; he later made a contribution to her Senate campaign. In her speech, Harris made a point of boasting that she had helped institute California’s tough law on home foreclosures.
When asked if they were Sanders supporters, the men just smiled.