California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris Formally Announces 2016 U.S. Senate Bid

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California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks onstage at the 2014 Variety Power of Women presented by Lifetime at Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons on Oct. 10, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Variety)

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Tuesday that she would run for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat, setting her marker on a race that could be one of the most expensive in the country in 2016.

Harris, the former district attorney of San Francisco who was just re-elected to her second term as attorney general, was the first to formally declare her candidacy since Boxer announced last week that she would not run for re-election in 2016.

“From my first days as a prosecutor in Alameda County, to my work as San Francisco District Attorney to my current service as California Attorney General, I have worked to bring smart, innovative and effective approaches to fighting crime, fighting for consumers and fighting for equal rights for all,” Harris said in a statement on her new campaign web page.

“I will be a fighter for the next generation on the critical issues facing our country. I will be a fighter for middle class families who are feeling the pinch of stagnant wages and diminishing opportunity,” she continued. “I will be a fighter for our children who deserve a world-class education, and for students burdened by predatory lenders and skyrocketing tuition. And I will fight relentlessly to protect our coast, our immigrant communities and our seniors.”

Many potential contenders have expressed interest in the post including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer, as well as several members of the California congressional delegation.

Steyer, who has been meeting with potential advisers and labor leaders across the state, would create a steep climb for other challengers with his ability to self-fund. Villaraigosa would be able to draw on his voting base in Southern California and his support in the Latino community.

But Harris’s strong fundraising base in California from her two statewide runs and her close alliance with President Barack Obama, make her one of the most formidable candidates in the race.

Her position was strengthened earlier on Monday when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom bowed out of contention. Speculation had swirled around the possibility of a heated race between Harris, 50, and Newsom, 47, who could have potentially split the Northern California vote, clearing the way for a Southern California candidate like Villaraigosa.

Boxer and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein have both held their Senate seats since 1992 — capping the ambitions of the next generation of politicians including Harris and Newsom.

Newsom has told many confidantes that he is interested in running for governor when Jerry Brown faces term limits in 2018, and he and Harris share the same political consultants. In a statement on his Facebook page, Newsom said it was better “to be candid than be coy” and noted that it would be better for his three children, Montana, Hunter and Brooklynn, if he stayed in California.

“While I am humbled by the widespread encouragement of so many and hold in the highest esteem those who serve us in federal office, I know that my head and my heart, my young family’s future and our unfinished work all remain firmly in the state of California — not Washington, D.C. Therefore I will not seek election to the U.S. Senate in 2016,” Newsom said.

Hinting at his potential alliance with Harris, he added that in the months to come, he looked “forward to doing whatever I can to help elect California’s next great Democratic senator — one worthy of succeeding Barbara Boxer and serving this remarkable state of dreamers and doers in the United States Senate.”

Harris is not planning any public events today.