Attorney General Kamala Harris
Governor Jerry Brown
Bucking the national trend and following their decisive victories in the last midterm elections, Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, the two top Democrats in the state, were sworn in last Monday.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
As the second third-term governor, and the first female and the first African American attorney general in the state’s history, Jerry Brown and Kamala D. Harris, were sworn in to their respective offices last Monday to begin–what many say–is one of the most tumultuous fiscal eras in the state’s history. As the 39th governor, Brown was returning to the office he vacated about 28 years ago and Harris was moving into the office Brown recently vacated. (And if the political pundits are correct, Harris may be moving in to Brown’s office again in the not-too-distant future).
California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye administered the oath of office to both of them and they both had rather modest inaugurations, which signaled a sign of the times fiscally. In has inaugural speech, Brown alluded to the state’s financial condition saying, “The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice.” And in a message sent from Senator Barbara Boxer to Brown, reinforced his admonition. The message stated in part, “The authenticity, candor and intelligence you showed during the campaign will be tremendous assets as you tackle the serious challenges ahead. I look forward to working with you to move California forward.”
As she had emphasized in her campaign and in her inaugural address, Harris vowed to ensure that “state law is on the side of the people.” She also said, “I am deeply humbled by the trust you have placed in me and I will never forget it is you, the People of California, whom I serve.”
Harris’ inaugural ceremony was held at the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts, and it included an invocation by Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr. of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a performance by classical Indian dancer, Vidya Sundaram. Sergeant Gerald D’Arcy of the San Francisco Police Department sang the national anthem, and the Presentation of Colors was given by the Department of Justice Color Guard and the Sacramento Area Firefighters.
Some of themes of her campaign were evident in her inaugural address such as the new innovative approaches that she will seek in tackling the state’s toughest problems, a reference to her position as being “Smart on Crime”. Further on, Harris added, “It is often said that a good prosecutor wins convictions. But a great prosecutor has convictions. In the coming four years, and in the continuing work of the Attorney General’s Office, we are going to do whatever it takes in the cause of protecting and defending the lives and livelihoods of all Californians, by moving beyond the status quo,” she said. “To do this, we are going to need to get smart on crime–tougher and smarter–about making California the undisputed national leader in innovation in crime fighting.”
A glimpse at Harris’ record as the two-term district attorney of San Francisco reveals what her focus and priority would be as the chief law enforcement officer for the state. It would be consistent for her focus to be on reducing recidivism, on reforming the state’s revolving door prison system, and leading a renewed collaborative effort against transnational gangs and organized crime. In addition–protecting consumers from mortgage fraud and other scams, as well as to preserving the state’s natural resources.
The list of well-wishers towards Harris’ historic ascension to the attorney general’s office reads like a who’s-who of elected officials and community leaders. This is a sampling.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas: “Kamala Harris’ inauguration as Attorney General marks a new way forward for California’s criminal justice system. “Los Angeles County’s enthusiastic support for her smart-on-crime policies helped secure her historic victory. I look forward to welcoming her back to the second District next week, when she will deliver the keynote address at the 19th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit on January 15.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: “I am thrilled to see Kamala sworn in as California’s Attorney General. Her experience and dedication to public service will ensure justice, safety and liberty for all Californians.”
Eric Garcetti, president of L.A. City Council: “Kamala Harris’ ascension to the office of Attorney General of the largest state in the union is a victory for all of us. She will be California’s Lady Justice, re-balancing the scales to ensure our communities are safe but that no Californian is forgotten. She is a groundbreaking leader of and for our times.”
Assemblymember Holly J. Mitchell (A-47): “I was proud to stand as a fellow daughter of this great state to bear witness to history–an African American women assuming statewide office. Attorney General Kamala Harris’ remarks about the concepts of justice, equity and fairness reflect how critical these issues continue to be for the African American community. I am delighted that California’s voters have entrusted to her the role of the state’s chief prosecutor, and I commend Ms. Harris for being, by training and track record, so eminently deserving of this office. Kamala Harris has demonstrated throughout her career the kind of commitment, vision and diligence that I have every confidence she will continue to evince as the highest ranking African American in state government.”
Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson (A-16): “Kamala Harris’ election is historic on many fronts. Not only is she the first woman, first African American, and the first South Asian American to be elected to the office of Attorney General in California, but Harris also embodies many firsts in her approach to administering justice. She represents a whole new era in justice for our state. As the chief law enforcement officer, she will address the interrelated systemic problems that infect our corrections system and schools while also protecting consumers, the environment, and keeping children safe from sexual predators. I was pleased that she announced her commitment to challenge the state’s increasing recidivism rate and addressing gang violence in our state. She recognizes the relationship between education and corrections and is ready to fix these problems through a comprehensive and holistic approach. This is how she operated as District Attorney of San Francisco and it is clear that she will continue this important work as Attorney General.”
Laphonza Butler, President SEIU ULTCW: “As Kamala Harris assumes the post of attorney general today, we are pleased that the state of California now has an attorney general who will not only be tough on crime, but will also be smart on crime as she works to promote crime prevention. As Attorney General Harris stated after being sworn in, she and her administration represent all Californians and will work to defend and protect our rights equally. Members of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW) worked countless hours this fall to ensure the election of candidates like Kamala Harris–candidates who want to rebuild California, and who understand and support working families and the needs of our communities.”