TheGrio’s 100: Kamala Harris, the future of California politics

TheGrio's 100 - San Francisco voters elected Kamala Harris to be the city's first female District Attorney...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

In 2003, San Francisco voters elected Kamala Harris to be the city’s first female District Attorney. Overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term, Harris is now aiming for higher office: California Attorney General in 2010.

It’s a natural progression for Harris, 45, a California native born to an Indian mother and Jamaican-American father. Harris attended Howard University, and then received a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

After graduating, Harris joined the Alameda County DA’s office, where she focused on prosecuting child sexual assault cases. She went on to serve in the San Francisco DA’s office, where she focused on fighting violent crime.

In her current role, Harris has increased conviction rates for serious and violent offenses, expanded services to victims and their families, and created new divisions in areas like child assault, public integrity and environmental crimes.

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Harris has brought innovation to the office, too. This includes programs to help ex-offenders re-enter society and a team to implement tough gun charging policies. She’s also launched outreach programs in local communities, and brought free legal clinics into immigrant-heavy neighborhoods.

The efforts seem to paying off: the DA’s office says it has more than doubled trial conviction rates for gun felonies; put some 200 gang members behind bars, and convicted more than 1,200 domestic violence offenders.

Harris is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Thurgood Marshall Award from the National Black Prosecutors Association in 2005. She’s also been featured on Oprah, and alongside the media magnate when Newsweek featured 20 of America’s most powerful women in 2006.

An early Obama supporter, Harris was invited to speak at the White House in August. In another vote of confidence The New York Times cited her among 17 women likely to become the first female president of the United States.