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Op-Ed: Please don’t tell Kamala I’m with her. I wouldn’t want to jinx the race

Kamala Harris
When the author told Kamala Harris why he couldn’t support her run for the presidency, she laughed heartily.
(Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images)

My family has been beseeching me not to support the Biden-Harris ticket. I’m a lifelong Democrat, so this might sound a bit strange. But when I’ve thrown my support behind presidential candidates before, the road has gotten bumpy.

In 1980, I was for Ted Kennedy. Four years later, I managed California Sen. Alan Cranston’s ’84 presidential campaign in New York and then helped run Walter Mondale’s campaign. In ’88, I supported Illinois Sen. Paul Simon’s presidential bid. I was one of only a handful of party leaders who supported Jerry Brown’s 1992 campaign in New York City. In 2000, Bill Bradley was my guy and then I backed Al Gore. In 2004, I was a campaign lawyer for Dick Gephardt and then trained poll watchers for John Kerry. As a New Yorker, of course I was for Hillary Clinton in 2008. In 2016, I was on Clinton’s “leadership council” — and assured everyone I was going to break my losing streak.

Well, you get my point. As this year’s presidential race started heating up, I tried to be careful. I wanted to avoid jinxing a campaign.

When my family gathered to celebrate Hanukkah in December 2018, the talk naturally turned to presidential politics after we passed around the latkes. Kamala Harris was a favorite in the room. I had met her several times and financially supported her 2016 U.S. Senate race. She was, of course, very impressive — smart and engaging, with real leadership qualities.

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Over lunch the next day, I was among a few potential donors who met with Harris as she mulled over whether to run for president. I kicked off the discussion by telling her that several members of my family were in her camp. But I also told her I could not support her. She stared at me as the room went silent. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, standing off to the side, grew tense.

I cleared my throat and explained: “Look, I think you’re terrific. You’d be great. But, believe me, if I support you, your candidacy is doomed. Almost everyone I support for president loses. I can’t do this to you.” That broke the ice. Harris threw her head back and laughed uproariously — a sight now familiar to much of the world.

But I do carry some guilt. After all, maybe just my being in the room with her was enough to sink her presidential hopes.

I later became part of Pete Buttigieg’s legal team. I hadn’t warned him about my bad luck, figuring he was such a long shot, he couldn’t blame me if it didn’t work out. You know the rest of that story.

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Harris is now on the cusp of the vice presidency. I hope for her sake — not to mention Joe Biden’s and the future of the republic — that my support won’t hurt. I do feel I’m backing a winner this time, but, just to be sure, please don’t tell Kamala I’m with her.

Jerry H. Goldfeder is an election lawyer at Stroock LLP in New York and teaches election law at Fordham Law School. He is a volunteer lawyer for Biden-Harris and has represented many winning candidates.


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