Questions Persist About Kamala Harris' Prosecutorial Record

Kamala Harris as San Francisco District Attorney in 2010.
Photo credit Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Kamala Harris made her debut Wednesday as Joe Biden’s running mate, bringing what Democrats hope will be energy, enthusiasm and broader demographic appeal to his campaign for president.

The Trump campaign is already attacking Harris as a San Francisco radical, but many in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party have argued she isn’t liberal enough, especially when it comes to criminal justice.

Harris has a mixed record in that area, one that found her under attack from all sides over the years. On the one hand, as San Francisco district attorney, she refused to seek the death penalty for a convicted cop killer in 2004, alienating her from the police department.

But then, as California attorney general, some contend she overcorrected, prosecuting marijuana cases, refusing to investigate police use of force cases and not backing a bill requiring that cops wear bodycams.

"(I’m) really excited to see someone who really reflects my identity on the national stage again, and the other on saying that it’s really hard to contend with the fact that the author of the 1994 crime bill picked someone who has a shaky record on justice issues as their running mate," said Tracey Corder, Deputy Campaign Director for Policing Work at the Action Center on Race and the Economy.

ACRE calls itself "a campaign hub for organizations that work at the intersection of racial justice and Wall Street accountability."

"When she ran for president, she had an opportunity to be a transformative candidate and run in a really transformational way, where she could have named the harm," Corder said.

Corder went on to say one of Harris’ mistakes on the campaign trial was not talking about how she, as a Black woman, held her various prosecutorial positions and evolved as a woman of color in doing so.

"To me, that’s a lesson for the left," Corder added.

The 55-year-old won two terms as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011.

She then served as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017.