Sen. Kamala Harris on Thursday defended her past record as California attorney general, the morning after Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard challenged her prosecutions during a CNN Democratic debate.
“I did the work of running the second largest department of justice in the United States, which is the California Department of Justice, an office of almost 5,000 people,” Harris said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday, adding later: “I’m proud of the work that I’ve done.”
Harris, who has sought to challenge front-runner Joe Biden from the left in the Democratic primary fight, has had to answer questions about her time as her state’s attorney general. On Wednesday night, Gabbard criticized Harris for marijuana-related incarcerations, California’s cash bail system and the length of prisoners’ terms.
“This is the work I’ve done. Am I going to take hits? Of course, incoming, there are going to be hits on a debate stage when people are trying to, you know, make a name for themselves,” Harris said Thursday.
Speaking to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and John Berman, Harris pointed to her work integrating former prisoners back into civilian life, as well as her oversight of the implementation of police body cameras.
Harris admitted she expected to litigate her record on the debate stage, and said she joked with her team beforehand that she could have incorporated it into her debate night attire.
“I actually joked with my team and said ‘I’ve never owned a red suit,'” Harris recounted Thursday morning. “‘I’ll probably have a target on my back, so maybe I should get a red suit so I’ll be easy to find.’ I didn’t need a red suit to be easy to find, it turns out,” she said.
Harris also talked about her efforts to reach African American voters who, recent polls show, favor Biden.
A Quinnipiac poll released before the debate showed Biden with 53% support among black Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 8% and Harris in a distant third place with 7%.
Asked about support among African American voters, Harris pinned much of Biden’s top polling position on his name recognition as former President Barack Obama’s vice president.
“When you have somebody that has been in office for decades, who was the vice president under a very popular president, I would expect that people would know who he is and there would be a high level of name recognition as a result. But I am going to be out here competing,” Harris said, adding that she is “fully prepared and equipped to compete on a very serious level, and I intend to win this election.”