As she seeks support for her presidential bid, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris delivered a message of unity through truth and justice to residents of the Quad-Cities on Sunday, calling it “critically important that we speak truth” amid a divisive time in American politics.
“At this moment in time, part of what makes this an inflection moment, is our recognition that there are so many people in our country right now who rightly are distrustful of their government, distrustful of its institutions and leaders,” said Harris, a California Democrat. “And one of the most important things to remember about a relationship of trust … the nature is reciprocal. You give and you receive trust.”
Drawing on her early life being raised by parents active in the civil rights movement, Harris ticked off what she described as the major justice issues facing the country today. Among those issues, she said, are a lack of opportunity for working families, a federal tax code that only benefits the wealthy, federal climate policies that run counter to bona-fide science and “human rights abuse” along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The senator was on hand in the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf to make her case to be the nation’s 46th president. After a morning with blizzard-like conditions that derailed the senator’s plans to make a campaign stop at a Waterloo church, Harris got a warm reception in Bettendorf as roughly 800 people came to see her in a packed auditorium.
The stop was Harris’s second in the Hawkeye state since she officially announced her bid for the nation’s highest office last month. She also came out in October to stump for Democratic Iowa Secretary of State candidate Deidre DeJear, who is now her Iowa campaign chairwoman.
On Sunday, it was DeJear’s turn to stump for Harris. Ahead of the senator’s stage debut, DeJear told those attending the first step in finding a candidate to support begins with “listening to the candidates” and “understanding what their value system is.”
“Needless to say, I’m not going to ask you to make your decision today,” DeJear said. “But what I would like for you to do is consider Sen. Harris.”
With nearly 11 months before Iowa’s caucus night, Harris is one of more than a dozen Democrats who’ve announced they will seek to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020.
Upper chamber colleagues of Harris’s who’re also running include Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. And independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 run for president is credited with moving the national Democratic Party leftward, also joined the fray last week.
Also running for the nomination are U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former three-term Maryland congressman John Delaney and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of Sound Bend, Ind.
After a speech that brought the crowd to its feet several times, Harris took questions from the audience on subjects that included medical care for low-income citizens, her Middle-East foreign policy positions and the U.S. criminal justice system. One audience member was more blunt, saying: “I want to know what you’re going to do to win.”
“I’m gonna hang out in Iowa a lot,” she said, pausing and laughing as the crowd cheered her on. “And work very hard and we’re gonna have to be smart.”
Ultimately, Harris predicted voters would choose a leader who’s shown demonstration of good leadership and appreciates “the nobility of public service.” She also pointed to someone who’ll stand tall on policy issues Americans care about.
“I think that the winning candidate will have a demonstrated history of being a fighter,” Harris added, before referencing her two terms as California’s attorney general. “And I know how to fight. I know how to fight.”
After the event ended, scores of people clamored to the roped-off area near the stage for a chance to get a photo or shake hands with the senator. Among the town-hall goers who hung back was Dante Turner, a Maryland native who’s lived in the Quad-Cities for the last 10 years.
Turner, who attended Sunday’s event with his wife, said Harris strikes him as one of the better candidates currently in the race. Her speech, he said, touched on several issues he’s concerned about, including mass incarceration, the availability of adequate health care and the federal tax code. But he’s yet to pick anyone he’ll support on caucus night – so far.
“I haven’t decided yet who is my candidate,” said Turner, who participated in the 2008 and 2016 caucuses. “Last time I was for (Bernie Sanders). I was rooting for Bernie a lot. But this one is going to be a toss-up, and we’re just going to have to let each candidate present themselves to the country and let us decide who is the best one.”