Kamala Harris, in San Francisco, outlines ‘profound’ stakes of election, raises her own profile

Kamala Harris speaks from behind a podium.
Kamala Harris speaks at a Nov. 15 event in San Francisco. The vice president was in the city Monday for campaign stops as a Biden-Trump rematch shapes up.
(China News Service via Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris made a trip home to San Francisco on Monday, kicking off the November general election less than a week after Super Tuesday with two campaign events in her old political stomping grounds.

Harris makes frequent campaign and White House trips to San Francisco, where she first rose to political prominence in California when she was elected district attorney in 2003.

But as the general election barrels toward a fierce 2020 rematch between President Biden and former President Trump — whether voters like it or not — Harris traveled back to the Bay Area to deliver a message about what’s at stake on the November ballot.


At two private fundraising events, Harris painted the election as the choice between freedom and dictatorship, creating jobs through the green energy economy or denying climate change, and safeguarding reproductive rights versus stripping women of their bodily autonomy.

“This is literally about our democracy,” Harris told a crowd of roughly 100 people, including acclaimed singer-songwriter Carole King, gathered at the swanky Pacific Heights mansion of author Robert Mailer Anderson and longtime Democratic political donor Nicola Miner.

“As a role model, people watch what you do, to see if it lines up to what you say,” the vice president said. “So the world is watching this election, not to mention the profound stakes that the American people have in the outcome of this November.”

Polls show the Biden-Harris campaign faces an uncertain path toward reelection, despite Trump’s ongoing legal troubles and skepticism by independent and Republican voters that his second stint in the White House would prove any less chaotic than the first.

Biden also faces apprehension among voters across the political spectrum who otherwise supported him in 2020, including those who worry he is too old to serve a second term and, notably, young progressives frustrated by his support for Israel and resistance to calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

Harris, therefore, serves a critical role in securing Biden another four years in the White House, said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego.


Kousser said that, although a vice president typically serves as an “attack dog” for an incumbent president on the campaign trail, Biden hasn’t been shy about using the bully pulpit, notably during his Thursday State of the Union address, to slam Trump and the Republican Party.

Instead, Harris appears to be courting a younger, more disillusioned voter base — and attempting to convince the electorate that she is ready for the job, should she need to step in, Kousser said.

“The fact that she has become a more vocal proponent of a cease-fire in Gaza, I think she’s speaking directly to the progressive younger base to say, ‘I hear you and there are voices in this administration who share your concern on this issue,’” Kousser said.

“I think this year is her chance to show what she’s done and reconnect with voters,” he added. “She’s been doing a lot of work in the last four years. This year is her year to speak more directly to the public on the campaign trail about what she’s doing, what she stands for, and give people the sense of what a Harris presidency would be like.”

California is a dependably blue state, and Biden is at no risk of losing here in November. Even so, a good portion of voters remain unenthusiastic about their presidential choices this fall, according to a February Public Policy Institute of California survey.

Harris has also stumbled in the polls and struggled to distinguish her own leadership in the White House, especially with a policy portfolio that includes some of the most difficult issues in Washington, including immigration reform.


The Times is tracking the latest national opinion polls on the favorability of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Aug. 2, 2021

“The American people are struggling under the weight of Bidenflation,” California Republican Party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement after Biden’s State of the Union address.

“Millions of illegal crossings through our open Southern border have turned every state into a border state. Disastrous foreign policy has weakened our nation on the world stage. Our communities are less safe as crime continues to run rampant. Our children are struggling in failing schools,” Patterson said. “This November, the American people will finally retire Joe Biden and his disastrous record once and for all.”

Harris’ San Francisco layover was part of a Western states campaign swing in recent days, with additional stops in Arizona and Nevada, swing states up for grabs in November. She’s focused her speeches on preserving abortion access and appealing to Latino voters on issues such as protecting healthcare access and the economy.

Speaking in a voice raspy from her travels, Harris reiterated that message to a group of 30 supporters at a Fairmont Hotel luncheon in downtown San Francisco hosted by Sheldon Kimber, founder and chief executive of the green energy company Intersect Power.

Harris said voters have a “split screen” choice between Biden and Trump on fighting or worsening climate change, along with other issues under “full-on attack,” such as access to the ballot box, gun control and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

“These are very real issues that we are being presented with in this election,” she said. “This is a moment where it is incumbent on each of us to decide what kind of country do we want to live in.”


Los Angeles Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.