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Kamala Harris Drops Out of 2020 Race in Time to Be Star of Impeachment Hearing

December 3, 2019, 7:00 PM UTC

California Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), once considered a frontrunner in the 2020 presidential election, announced on Tuesday afternoon that she would be dropping out of the crowded primary field. 

Outside of her two-story headquarters in Oakland, California, wooden doors were held shut with a combination lock and no campaign staffers were to be found. Crews of local and national press lingered around, waiting for some sort of official action, but found only a mural of Harris as a young girl with the words “fearless” colorfully displayed over it.

The mural displayed similarities to the photo Harris’ campaign had posted on social media after she attacked former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate over his record on busing.

The event was likely the peak of the Harris campaign, but fallout from her criticism of Biden ended up hurting the candidate. Harris later avoided questions about her position on busing and said that she did not think it should be mandated.

“It probably felt good and right at the time politically, but it backfired and I think it played into her fall,” said Mo Vela, a former senior adviser to Joe Biden. “My understanding is that in the telenovela of politics, you have power trips and head games and so on and so forth.”

Harris had been struggling with a lack of funding and diminishing poll numbers for months, with rumors swirling of an intended exit for weeks before the official announcement. The final decision came just after billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a newcomer to the race funded with $100 million of his own cash, outranked Harris in a Hill-HarrisX poll and had tied with her in a Morning Consult poll. In early November, Harris began laying off and reassigning campaign staff, she also ended her efforts in New Hampshire in order to focus her limited resources on Iowa. 

“My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue,” she wrote in an email to supporters. “I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete,” she continued, taking a jab at Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, another self-funded billionaire running for president. 

Harris told staffers this morning in a call that she would end her campaign, she reportedly sounded distraught. 

The sudden end of the campaign comes as a shock to some, a super PAC had just spent $1 million in an ad buy in Iowa claiming Harris was the only candidate who could successfully take on President Donald Trump. The ads have been canceled. 

Harris had already qualified for the December presidential debates, the only candidate of color to do so thus far.

Vela says Harris made the right choice to drop out now. “This was not premature,” said Vela who serves on the board of directors of TransparentBusiness. “When you see a precipitous drop the way she did and never get a bounce back up, the writing is on the wall.” It’s admirable that she’s dropping out now, he said, “instead of taking more money from donors. This is the responsible thing to do.”

Vela, the first Hispanic and gay American to service twice in a senior executive role in the White House, said he doesn’t see a problem with the democratic field, once the most diverse in the party’s history, winnowing to a race consisting of mostly white men. “Diversity is not at the forefront of the average voter’s mind,” he said. “People are looking for civility and predictability, they want stability. The color of skin or who you love or age isn’t factoring in to that too much.”

Harris, a notorious litigator famous for her tough line of questioning in Senate hearings is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will likely play an outsized role in the upcoming impeachment trial of Trump.

She’ll also likely be on the shortlist for a vice presidential role or attorney general role, said Vela.

“Eleven months ago at the launch of our campaign in Oakland I told you all: ‘I am not perfect.’ But I will always speak with decency and moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity. I will speak the truth. And that’s what I have tried to do every day of this campaign. So here’s the truth today,” Harris wrote in her note to supporters. “I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life.”

Additional reporting by Terry Collins

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