Newsletter: What went wrong for Kamala Harris?

Sen. Kamala Harris cited money troubles as she abandoned her campaign for president.


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 4, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Kamala Harris was all smiles and campaign talking points (middle-class tax cuts, affordable childcare, good teacher salaries) as she chopped vegetables and stirred the turkey stock ahead of Thanksgiving dinner with her family last week in Des Moines.

But after the camera crew had packed up and the last of the political reporters cleared out, one has to imagine that kitchen banter in the California senator’s temporary Heartland home took a heavier turn as the Harris family contended with the future.

On Tuesday, Kamala Harris announced that she was suspending her presidential run. The ending to her once ascendant campaign was surprisingly abrupt — it was just Monday that Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he’d soon be stumping for her in Iowa, and a super PAC’s million-dollar ad buy was set to hit Iowa airwaves on Wednesday.

[Read the story: “Kamala Harris drops out of the presidential race” in the Los Angeles Times]


After an initially dazzling debut, the charismatic former prosecutor had fallen hard from the top tier of Democratic candidates in recent months. Her campaign flailed as funds dwindled, and reports of internal team discord kept making their way into the media. The freshman senator had quickly become one of the highest-profile members of Congress, but it seemed that many voters still struggled to ascertain what, exactly, Harris stood for.

My colleagues, political reporters Melanie Mason and Michael Finnegan, wrote that ultimately, “her run foundered with a muddled purpose, campaign infighting and an inability to sustain support from vital Democratic voting blocs, particularly African Americans.”

The early California primary, with its newly relevant position in early March, had once seemed like a possible powerhouse advantage for the California senator. But as her support among California Democratic primary voters slipped into the single digits, it instead loomed as a potentially bruising defeat on her home turf.

The support of much of the California political establishment, which had largely lined up behind Harris, will once again be up for grabs with her out of the race.

But regardless of one’s feelings about Harris, it’s striking to see a historically diverse Democratic field appearing to solidify into a top tier that’s increasingly lacking minority voices.

[Read the story “Democrats value diversity, but the presidential field is increasingly white” in the Los Angeles Times]

With Harris gone, not a single person of color has yet qualified to be onstage for the Dec. ```19 primary debate in Los Angeles, though that could still change before next week’s deadline to qualify.

And now, here’s what’s happening:



The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will hold its first impeachment hearing, signifying a new — and unpredictable — step in the Democrats’ inquiry into President Trump. If the Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), was staid and serious during weeks of closed-door depositions and nine days of public hearings, the Judiciary Committee is expected to be more rambunctious. Its membership is far larger than the Intelligence Committee and includes some of the most partisan Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Los Angeles Times

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai will take over the top job at the search giant’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., as co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin step away from their roles as CEO and president, respectively. Page and Brin, who founded Google in 1998, will continue to serve as Alphabet “board members, shareholders and co-founders,” they wrote in a company blog post Tuesday. Los Angeles Times


Fifty songs for a new Los Angeles: Ready your playlists. Here is music writer Randall Roberts’ compendium of songs that paint a panoramic portrait of Los Angeles in the 21st century. (Plus: A behind-the-scenes look at how Roberts compiled the list.) Los Angeles Times

Visitors to Griffith Park can leave their cars at home. A new free weekend shuttle will take people from the Vermont/Sunset station to 12 stops around the park. Los Angeles Times


A troubled former USC football star died at 31. His family hoped that studying his brain for CTE would help others. Los Angeles Times

The Dodgers recently met with two of the top free agents on the market, pitcher Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon. (Not to be confused with current Speaker of the California State Assembly Anthony Rendon, who has a doctorate in political science but does not appear to have ever played professional sports.) Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


L.A. Councilwoman Nury Martinez will be the next City Council president, making her the first Latina to hold the powerful position. She will replace Councilman Herb Wesson, who announced last week that he was stepping down as president to focus on his campaign for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Los Angeles Times

L.A. City Councilwoman Nury Martinez is congratulated by Councilman Joe Buscaino and others after she was elected president of the council on Tuesday. Buscaino will succeed Martinez as president pro tempore next year.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)


Prosecutors expect to seek at least a year in prison for Rep. Duncan Hunter. Hunter pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds and is expected to resign from Congress before facing a prison sentence. Los Angeles Times

Stanford says that the college admissions scandal mastermind approached seven coaches there. Only one, a former sailing coach who pleaded guilty earlier this year, went along with the scheme, according to the school’s review. Mercury News


More rain ahead, after the wettest November in years for parts of L.A. County. An atmospheric river, swelled with subtropical moisture that’s sweeping in from the west, is expected to move into the southern portion of the Central Coast and Los Angeles County. Los Angeles Times



Protesters at Amazon’s San Bernardino center decried the company’s labor practices and negative affects on local air quality. San Bernardino Sun

These are the best hidden-gem restaurants in every Bay Area city, at least according to this writer. SF Gate

“It’s a basic human need.” The San Francisco Diaper Bank works to make free diapers available for families who receive food stamps. San Francisco Chronicle

Another Barrio Logan art gallery will close its doors amid rising rents. The owners of the 6-year-old La Bodega Gallery say they were “gentrified out” of the predominantly Latino community south of downtown San Diego. Chicano Art Gallery, which opened around the same time as La Bodega, also shuttered earlier this year. San Diego Union-Tribune


Los Angeles: rain, 62. San Diego: rain, 65. San Francisco: rain, 57. San Jose: rain, 59. Sacramento: rain, 55. More weather is here.



“Women wept in wonder / and hunted fruit jars to can / the precious flowers / in case next year / did not produce a bumper crop”

— -poet Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, “First Spring in California, 1936”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.