A few months ago, I was privileged to welcome California Attorney General Kamala Harris into my home. In a presidential election year dominated by reality-show like entertainment, I realized that I had not paid enough attention to the “down ballot” elections, especially those in California, where Democrats generally win.
[OPINION: Sanchez is a staunch defender of Israel]
Fortunately for me, the meeting with the attorney general took place in a relaxed setting. Instead of delivering a typical well-rehearsed speech, she engaged me and my three daughters in a thoughtful dialogue about the country’s future, with genuine interest in what each of us had to say. Articulate, compassionate, and nuanced, the attorney general stood out in my mind as the kind of refreshing leader that we need in public life.
After that meeting, I did research about the platforms of both Democratic candidates. (Harris’ opponent is U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of the 46th District in Orange County.) I came to understand the high stakes of this Senate race and why it was incumbent on me to actively support who I believe is the best candidate for this extremely important seat.
As an immigrant to the United States, I tend to look at public policy through a number of lenses; I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and the mother of an Israel Defense Forces veteran. Like so many others in the Jewish community, these experiences have led me to engage in the civic discourse of society, and Harris has demonstrated a connection to the values I hold dearly, which has motivated me to offer her my support.
Her proven record of fighting for Californians — especially those without a voice —is matched by an inspiring personal story. Raised in a family of new immigrants, largely by her mother, Harris spent her youth engaged in social justice work, bringing these experiences to her years of service as a front-line prosecutor in Alameda County and then as San Francisco’s district attorney. In 2011, she was elected attorney general of California, the first woman, Black or South Asian to hold the office. (Her father emigrated from Jamaica, her mother from India.)
As state attorney general, she has prosecuted violent criminals and transnational gangs, fought to protect women and girls from abuses such as human trafficking and sexual assault, and worked to safeguard California’s environmental protection laws. At the same time, she has led our national conversation on criminal justice reform, earning the respect of policymakers across the aisle and around the country for her strategies to reduce the number of repeat offenders by addressing the root causes of crime.
The attorney general has proven willing to take on tough issues such as gun safety by championing important legislation to close loopholes in California’s assault weapons ban. This has prevented more than 19,000 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition from falling into the hands of felons and domestic abusers.
During our private conversations and on the campaign trail, Harris has made clear that her longstanding support of Israel and belief in the importance of a Jewish homeland is rooted in her family’s values and experience. She has called the U.S.-Israel alliance “deep and indispensable” and has asserted that the United States must continue to stand with Israel in the face of an increasingly volatile Middle East.
Although her opponent has strong ties to Israel, I believe Harris will bring a unique perspective and skill set to the Senate on this issue, including a capability to thoughtfully articulate the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship in a progressive manner, work across the aisle and create consensus to strengthen this vital relationship.
Leaders across the Golden State and around the country agree that Harris will be a tremendous asset in Washington on many issues. Her endorsements span from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), to Gov. Jerry Brown, Treasurer John Chiang and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, along with nearly 60 current and former members of California’s legislatures.
In this election, California is positioned to provide much-needed leadership for the rest of the country. I am throwing my support behind her campaign as I truly believe that Attorney General Kamala Harris has the qualities to provide the leadership we deserve as our representative in the U.S. Senate.
JANINE LOWY is an attorney, a Jewish communal leader and the proud mother of four. She lives in Beverly Hills.