It was touch and go for a while there, with Trump’s persistent lies about election fraud culminating in an attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol. But now Joe Biden has officially been sworn in as president, along with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden was the star of the show on the 20th. But Harris is the far more interesting character, especially for San Franciscans. As the first woman, and the first person of Black or South Asian descent to hold the office of Vice President, Harris is a trailblazer without equal. But she’s also been, at various times, an ally and an enemy of progressive activists; a friend and a foe to the police; a champion of working people and a scion of high society.
You don’t get to be the first woman of color to serve as vice president by being just one thing over the course of your career. While Harris is a difficult person to view in full, at different moments, she has shown different sides of herself. Below, SF Weekly has compiled five of the best stories on Kamala Harris from our archives, so you can get to know your Vice President just a little bit better.
On the eve of her selection as VP in August, SF Weekly produced a birds-eye-view perspective on her record as San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General, charting her rise to power, and cataloguing her accomplishments and scandals.
One of the first — if not the first — profiles of Kamala Harris ran in SF Weekly in September of 2003, in the midst of her longshot campaign to unseat incumbent DA Terence Hallinan. Reporter Peter Byrne follows Harris from the Sunnydale Projects to a Pacific Heights ballroom, highlighting the contradictions in her political DNA
While not always an ally to sex workers, Harris made a point of prioritizing sex worker safety over the enforcement of vice laws. This 2004 article suggests Harris’ policies on sexual activity in strip clubs “shifted the framework for public discussion of sex work in San Francisco” and beyond.
Despite being elected on a “smart on crime” platform that ostensibly put her to the right of her predecessor, DA Harris was criticized for failing to prosecute dangerous criminals, leaving “alleged killers on the street, flush with bravado.” This 2006 article quotes law enforcement and legal experts who claimed, “Under District Attorney Kamala Harris… county prosecutors have proven cautious to the point of paralysis in charging homicides.”
A scandal in which a crime lab technician siphoned off drugs for personal use, and a Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal suggested to SF Weekly reporter Matt Smith that “Harris favors concealment over transparency.” This 2010 deep dive into the latter scandal shows the DA’s reticence to provide information to the public and her desire to keep her hands clean of sensitive issues.