State Attorney General Kamala Harris launched her re-election bid at San Francisco City Hall Wednesday with the prospect of an unusually comfortable race. So far, California’s first female top lawyer is running completely unopposed.
The lack of enthusiasm about the campaign among Republicans and other potential challengers makes sense. Four years after defeating L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley by just eight-tenths of a percent to win the job, Harris is a formidable favorite, and increasingly seen as a heavyweight on the national stage.
In 2012, she received major plaudits for holding out to win an $18 billion in relief to California homeowners in a national mortgage settlement against five major banks. The Democratic Party also gave her a plum speaking slot at their 2012 convention in Charlotte.
Harris’ name recognition and fundraising power are significant factors in the race. The former San Francisco DA has raised over three million dollars for her campaign to date. Even law enforcement organizations that endorsed Cooley in 2010, such as the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California have endorsed Harris this time around.
Increased coziness with the law enforcement community may come at some cost to Harris. Demonstrators demanding the prosecution of police officers implicated in civilian deaths plan to protest outside the Attorney General’s Oakland office this afternoon.
Still, any prospective G.O.P. candidate could face a prohibitive headwind. While Harmeet K. Dhillon, Vice Chairman of the California Republican Party, notes that the organization is actively recruiting people for the race, she acknowledges that the obstacles for prospective candidates are considerable.
“The barriers to entry are really money and power of incumbency.” she said, adding that not having the Democratic Party endorsement “is a very significant hurdle” to running for any of California’s ten statewide elected offices at this time.
With no challenger on the horizon at the moment and a run for higher office not currently a viable option, Harris kept Wednesday’s announcement low-key. While Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Ed Lee lunched with French President Francois Hollande upstairs, Harris jived with elections officials for nearly ten minutes, talking down her ambitions to a gaggle of a half-dozen reporters.
When asked what she would do if the Republicans fail to put up a candidate, Harris jested, “I’ll probably celebrate.”
But there will be no confetti – at least for now. Challengers have until March 7th to enter the race.