Kamala Harris: Focused on Job, Not SCOTUS

High court prospects aren't on her mind now, Cali's chief lawyer told us while stumping for Obama.

Kamala Harris (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
Kamala Harris (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Why is California’s attorney general stumping for President Obama in the battleground state of North Carolina in the last days of a contentious presidential campaign? “One, because I’m one of the national co-chairs for the campaign,” she told The Root, “and two, because the outcome of the election in North Carolina will directly impact my constituents in California.”

From advocating for health care reform to helping broker a settlement in the foreclosure crisis, Kamala Harris has been as out-front on issues as she has in her vocal backing of Barack Obama. “I’ve been supporting the president for a long time; he’s been supporting me for a long time.”

A pioneer in her current position as well as in her previous post as district attorney of San Francisco, the Howard University graduate is the daughter of an Asian-Indian mother, a breast cancer specialist, and a Jamaican-American father, a Stanford economics professor. Harris said she grew up “surrounded by a bunch of adults who spent full time marching and shouting about this thing called justice.”

So it was only fitting that in Charlotte — where she spoke at the Democratic National Convention in September — Harris energized volunteers Wednesday at an Obama campaign office by paraphrasing Coretta Scott King. “The fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation,” she told the workers who have spent days and weeks canvassing and phone-banking. “Folks need to be touched, and isn’t that the beauty of the system?” She said it’s time to “roll up our sleeves, not throw up our hands.”

Before she headed to campaign stops in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, Harris spoke with The Root.

The Root: Your name has been mentioned as a possible Supreme Court candidate if Obama wins re-election and a seat becomes vacant, and also as a future candidate for California governor. What are your goals?

Kamala Harris: I love my job as California attorney general, and that’s what I think about, aside from re-electing our president … I’m also superstitious. I’ve seen too many people trip over this thing because they’re so focused on that thing out there. Life is too short; it’s not worth it. Do what’s in front of you, and hopefully the right thing will happen next.

TR: Issues you have favored, from prison reform to marriage equality, would seem to put you at odds with opinions in other parts of the country. Is California ahead of the country?

KH: There are just certain issues that should not be thought of as partisan … When you’re talking about the issue of marriage, we have one group in society that legally we are treating differently. That’s not right. On the issue of choice, we can all differ about what each one of us would do in that situation … Let that woman make the decision in counsel with her minister, with her family, with her physician …

A lot of the big issues, controversial issues, they’re false choices. On this issue of criminal justice policy, I think it’s a false choice to suggest that you’re either soft on crime or you’re tough on crime. We should be asking, are you smart on crime? And that means everybody agreeing murderers, rapists, child molesters — lock them up for as long as we can. But when it comes to low-level offenders, first-time offenders, 18- through 24-year-old offenders, we need to figure out a way to cycle them out of the system before they become the career criminal.