California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday that she makes "no apologies" for an aggressive U.S. Senate campaign that some fellow Democrats have complained is aimed at keeping others, notably a Latino candidate, out of the race.
"I have always entered races early and run hard, and that's what I've done in this race," Harris said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, her first since announcing her Senate bid. "I make no apologies for it."
But she did disagree with the sentiment expressed by one of her supporters, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who urged former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to stay out of the race out of respect for Harris.
"I think that anything that suggests anyone should not run for any reason is not appropriate," Harris said, adding that she had "great respect" for Villaraigosa.
Harris formally launched her bid on Jan. 13, days after U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer announced she would not seek reelection in 2016. In the five weeks since then, she has been raising money and securing endorsements, including some from former allies of Villaraigosa's, but did not do a single media interview about her bid until Wednesday.
In contrast, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom launched his 2018 gubernatorial bid last week and did a round of interviews with reporters within a few hours. Newsom and Harris share many of the same advisors.
Harris said she had been focused on her duties as the state's top law-enforcement official.
"I'm 100% focused on doing my job as California's attorney general," Harris said, pointing to her launch last week of a children's justice bureau.
Harris declined to say how much she hopes to raise for her campaign, but said she expected to debate her opponents. She pointed to her resume as attorney general and San Francisco district attorney as the rationales for her Senate bid.
"I think that California wants and needs a tough, practical and results-oriented approach and leader in the Senate, especially, frankly, given the atmosphere in Washington today," Harris said.
Harris said she decided to run for the U.S. Senate because many of the priorities she has focused on as attorney general -- the economy, veterans, immigration, the environment -- are issues she would like to tackle at the federal level.
"All I think are very connected, directly connected, to the work that I've been doing and want to see through," Harris said.
Harris acknowledged that she has not worked on foreign policy or national security -- two critical matters that the U.S. Senate deals with -- in her elected posts.
"It's something that is relatively new in terms of my professional work. I've always had an interest in it but there's a learning curve," Harris said, adding that she planned to spend the next six months studying, reading and consulting experts and "really feeding my brain."