Sen. Kamala Harris is the potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate generating the most excitement among the black political elite, according to participants at this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation policy forum in Washington.
It’s still way too soon for endorsements — none of the major potential candidates are even in the race yet and elected officials say they’re more focused on the 2018 mid-terms than the next presidential contest — but Harris, a California Democrat who is in her first year in the Senate, has emerged at the center of attention.
In interviews with more than a dozen political insiders and CBC members here, Harris’ outreach to other political leaders, her attention to issues of importance to voters of color, her perceived ferocity, and even her status as a graduate of a historically black college — Howard University — were cited as reasons she’s emerged as an early, if far from prohibitive, favorite.
“You’re hearing Kamala, and Cory’s a distant second,” James Williams, director of federal relations for Wayne State University and a former longtime congressional aide, said, referring to Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
The early leanings of the black political influencers are important because a mostly unified African-American electorate has helped push the victors of the last two open Democratic presidential primaries — Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 — to the party’s nomination.
Those contests highlighted the way party rules award more Democratic convention delegates to parts of the country that most reliably support Democratic candidates — meaning a black voting bloc can have outsized influence in picking the party’s nominee.
That dynamic isn’t lost on white politicians who are considering presidential runs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016, has been reaching out to the African-American community since his defeat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., recently visited Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu garnered attention among Democrats, including many black voters, by removing Confederate statues from his city.
SOURCE: JONATHAN ALLEN and CHANDELIS R. DUSTER