On Wednesday, President Obama's re-election campaign announced 35 national co-chairs — a mix of elected officials, everyday volunteers and a few celebrity friends. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, actress Eva Longoria, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, actor Kalpen Modi and AME Bishop Vashti McKenzie are among the names that made the list. In their new roles, the campaign co-chairs will advise on various issues and advocate for the president on the campaign trail.
Kamala Harris, attorney general of California, is also on board, and she's no stranger to the Obama administration. Earlier this month she played a key role in its reaching a $26 billion foreclosure-fraud settlement between 49 states and five of the nation's biggest banks — after she'd originally walked away from talks last year because they didn't go far enough. Many tense negotiations later, Harris told The Root why she ultimately signed on to that deal, which issues she'll be stumping for on the campaign trail and how she really feels about constantly being called "the female Barack Obama."
The Root: In your role as a campaign co-chair, are there specific issues that you plan to advocate for on the trail, or advise the campaign on?
Kamala Harris: Well, first of all, I'm honored to serve. And I'm absolutely committed to re-electing President Obama. I believe he is the right president at the right time for our country. There's a lot of work to be done that will involve going to the various places and being a surrogate as much as I can. I'll talk about issues that range from the economy to the foreclosure crisis to the challenges that the middle class is facing. And I'll talk about it in a way that outlines everything that the president has done, from middle-class tax cuts to reform of Wall Street.
TR: Speaking of the foreclosure crisis, why did you decide to sign on to the Obama administration's mortgage-fraud settlement with the banks this month, and do you think it's good for homeowners?
KH: Ultimately, I signed on because it was about making sure that we would bring $18 billion to California, and do that without giving a blank check of immunity to the banks. So we preserved our ability to continue investigations and require accountability, but did that in a way that would bring immediate relief to a lot of homeowners who were in desperate need of help. In California, over 50 percent of the homeowners who have gone through the foreclosure process are African American and Latino, in spite of the fact that we're only about 30 percent of the homeowner population.
TR: Does California plan to continue investigating foreclosure and other financial fraud?
KH: Oh yes, absolutely. I created a mortgage-fraud strike force last year, soon after I came in office, with the purpose of going after corporate fraud, consumer fraud and criminal conduct.
TR: Almost every time you're discussed, you're paralleled with President Obama, whether it's being called "the female Barack Obama" or being part of a new generation of black politicians. How do you feel about those comparisons — do you think you and the president represent something similar?
KH: Well, it's not "every time"! [Laughs.] I'm humbled that anyone would make the comparison between me and the president. I think he's an extraordinary leader. Certainly, he and I have been supporting each other for a long period of time because of our shared values and commitment to public service. But, you know, there is a whole generation of leaders, and while it's not as big as it probably should be, it's a big group. I think about people like Kasim Reed in Atlanta, a great mayor. People like Newark Mayor Corey Booker. There are others, and I think we're all honored to work together.
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.