Kamala Harris draws crowds in L.A. amid buzz of a presidential run

Sen. Kamala Harris of California talks with author Cleo Wade about the senator's new memoir, "The Truths We Hold," at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

For Nicki Mitchell of Pomona, there was one good reason to come hear U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California talk about her memoir Sunday afternoon at a theater in Los Angeles.

“I’m seeing it as an opportunity to see the next president,” said Mitchell, a high school counselor.

Harris hasn’t announced if she will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. But the likelihood that she will join the race soon was the main lure for more than 1,200 Californians who flocked to her two Los Angeles events on Sunday.


After stops in San Francisco, New York and Washington, Harris wrapped up her five-day book tour with a reading of her new children’s book at the Grove shopping mall, followed by a conversation on stage at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre about her just-released memoir. By all appearances, the events were as much about preparing to run for president as they were about selling books.

Moderated by author Cleo Wade, the talk about Harris’ memoir blended the personal and the political. The senator recalled the blind date when she met her husband, Los Angeles lawyer Douglas Emhoff, and reminisced about the “warrior” nature of her late mother, a breast cancer researcher and civil rights activist. She compared American democracy in the era of President Trump to a house during a natural disaster.

“Some of the shingles are falling off, but the house is still standing,” she said.

The event, sponsored by Writers Bloc Presents, cost $41 per ticket, which came with a copy of the senator’s memoir, “The Truths We Hold.” Taking friendly questions from a director’s chair on stage, Harris was conversational and warmly received by the left-leaning audience.

Her mocking of Trump’s demand for a border wall was one of her biggest laugh lines. She recalled prosecuting transnational criminal organizations when she was California attorney general, saying in a tone of disbelief: “That wall ain’t going to stop them.”

Not everyone saw a president-in-waiting. Sandy Richman, a Westside fashion consultant, likes Harris, but said it was too soon for her to run for president. “I mean she hasn’t been a senator that long,” she said.

Following the custom of White House contenders who use book launches to promote their candidacies before formally announcing their campaigns, Harris, 54, has enjoyed a burst of free publicity on national talk shows, including ABC’s “The View” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on CBS.


Colbert was one of many interviewers who asked if she would be running for president.

“I might,” she responded with a smile as the audience cheered.

Harris dodged the question of whether reports that she plans to announce her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day were accurate, saying only that Americans should always honor the civil rights leader.

“Superheroes Are Everywhere,” her children’s book that she read aloud at the Barnes & Noble at the Grove, echoes her political speeches in places. One passage pays tribute to late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights icons.

“They fought in court because they knew that people aren’t always treated equally, but should be,” she read to a couple hundred admirers packed in the children’s section, including a cluster of toddlers on the floor.

The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Harris is one of several women in Congress laying ground to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii are already running, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is expected to announce her candidacy soon. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is also weighing whether to run.


Alma Delin of North Hills showed up at the Grove event in a black T-shirt reading, “The Future is Female.”

“In other countries, there are female presidents — why not the U.S.?” she asked.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who is expected to announce her campaign for president within weeks, promotes her new book at Barnes & Noble at the Grove on Sunday in Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Harris is one of a few Californians who might jump into the race, including Rep. Eric Swalwell of Dublin and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Among those in the crowd Sunday at the Grove was Ryan Damodaran of Burbank. Like Harris, he is the son of an immigrant from Chennai, India.

“You don’t see a lot of Indians in such prominent roles in the country,” he said. “She has such a strong voice, and we need more young voices in the Democratic Party, and I think she can be the face of the future.”

Damodaran, who is in entertainment marketing, was carrying his squirming 11-month-old boy, Noah.


“I want to get my son started early on getting active in the world,” he said.

Twitter: @finneganLAT