Newsletter: Essential Politics: Sen. Kamala Harris sets her sights on 2020 — she’s running for president

Fifteen years after taking office after her first campaign, a successful bid to be district attorney of San Francisco, Sen. Kamala Harris has officially set her sights on the top of America’s political pyramid.

The junior senator from California is running for president.


The announcement — the confirmation of what’s been hinted at now for months — came in two steps: an appearance on national television and the release of an online video.

“The future of our country depends on you and millions of others raising their voices to fight for our American values,” Harris said in the video. “That’s why I’m running for president of the United States. To lift those voices. To bring our voices together.”

Harris becomes the fourth woman in Congress to vie for the chance to challenge President Trump in 2020 and will no doubt lean on her law and order background as well as her reputation for being a sharp critic of the administration on Capitol Hill.


She is the most high-profile California elected official to launch a White House bid since former Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996.

Sign up for the Essential Politics newsletter »


Thirty days and counting into the longest federal government shutdown in history, Trump has found little support for his holiday weekend gambit — and more than a few new critics among his conservative base.

The president’s Saturday afternoon address to the nation from the White House offered something Democrats were hardly prepared to accept: only temporary protection for Dreamer immigrants and certain refugees in exchange for support to spend $5.7 billion on a new barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump’s speech called for “compromise,” saying that “both sides” should “put down their armor.” But criticisms were fast and furious — including from immigration hard-liners who suggested the president’s offer was akin to amnesty.

By Sunday, he was lashing out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter over the shutdown saga and finding himself again the focus of intense speculation on whether a Russian business deal lasted deep into the 2016 presidential campaign.

In short, writes Noah Bierman, Trump is suffering from a lack of leverage. “Two years in,” Bierman wrote on Sunday, “the man who built a political reputation as a guy who tells it like it is has lost the essential ingredients to closing deals: credibility and trust.


-- Columnist Doyle McManus thinks Pelosi is winning the battle with Trump.

-- How did we get to this point? Here’s our timeline of the government shutdown so far.

-- A Native American drummer speaks about the MAGA-hat-wearing teens who surrounded him on Saturday in Washington.

-- A half-century ago, the late President Richard Nixon took office with an eye toward hope, civility and optimism.


Gov. Gavin Newsom has his hands full just two weeks into the job of California chief executive — fielding calls for him to take a more active role in the ongoing strike of teachers in the L.A. Unified School District and the looming bankruptcy of Pacific Gas & Electric.

He’s also making decisions about where he and his family full of young children will live over the next few years.

First, he’s not going to live in the city of Sacramento. The state’s first family has bought a sprawling home in a posh suburb of the capital city, after moving initially into the historic governor’s mansion only a few blocks away from the Capitol.

Nor does Newsom, a political advisor says, have his eye on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. — even though the new governor has bought Facebook ads showing up in the news feeds of users in Ohio, Florida and other swing states.

But on the policy front — in addition to ambitious efforts on healthcare, education and other ideas in his budget — Newsom seems eager to wade into the unending debate over California’s tax structure. In my Sunday column, I took a closer look at how the governor sees a 2020 ballot measure seeking to modify the legendary Proposition 13 as an incentive for tax reform.


The governor also has a novel, though untested, idea to take a bite out of California’s housing woes: money from some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.

Newsom said he’s had conversations over the past six months with tech companies about ponying up more money for middle-income housing. How that would happen remains unclear, but it could raise questions of disclosure — these wouldn’t be campaign contributions and thus not subject to existing rules.

“I’m not asking for a gift,” the governor said last week. “I’m not asking for a nonprofit donation. I’m asking for a commitment, a public policy commitment. I’m not seeing a red flag, but it’s a legitimate question.”


Three current and former employees have filed a lawsuit against the California Democratic Party and its former chairman, Eric Bauman, alleging discrimination and a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct that was “well-known and apparently tolerated” by top officials.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges a workplace where drinking during the workday and inappropriate comments went largely unchallenged, and claims that some party leaders retaliated against those who reported allegations of harassment.


-- Newsom said last week that even though the Trump administration has said states can’t help TSA security workers who are unpaid during the federal government shutdown, he will move to do so anyway.

-- California’s historic bail overhaul is now on hold for a 2020 statewide ballot referendum, the result of efforts by the bail industry to block the measure and keep bail agents in business.

-- The California Legislature established a new unit to investigate sexual harassment claims and a panel to recommend follow-up action more than one year after the #MeToo movement rocked the state Capitol.

-- Former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas probably made an unwanted sexual advance toward a female Capitol staffer two years ago, according to an Assembly investigation released Wednesday.

-- With the GOP reeling from its poor showing in California’s November election, state Senate Republicans have chosen Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield as their leader.

-- California lawmakers say allowing candidates and elected officials to use their campaign funds to pay for child care would increase gender parity in public office.

-- Three years after he went to prison in a federal corruption case, former state Sen. Ronald Calderon was quietly released from federal custody last week.


Essential Politics is published Monday and Friday.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Friday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.