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Standing Firm

Apr
20
2004

Before San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom decided to issue same-sex couple marriage licenses, it looked as though newly elected District Attorney Kamala Harris had the brighter political future.


An African American Indian – as a friend of mine says, “dot, not feather” or more politically correct, that’s sub-continent, not native to these shores – Harris is smart, tough and matter-of-fact. And she packed Herbst theater for her swearing in ceremony. That’s about as good as it gets because unlike almost every other elected official on the ballot, the district attorney doesn’t give away a huge number of jobs or control some monster payroll. The job is pretty much a law enforcement gig and Harris won – in a story book come-from-behind victory – because she told San Franciscans she’d enforce the city’s laws, something her predecessor, Terrance Hallinan did in fits and starts.
Harris is no Rudy Giuliani, getting tough for the sake of it. She for standing up for what she thinks is right. She’s not prosecuting anti-war protesters. In San Francisco? Really. It’d be a travesty if she did. This city perfected protest politics.
But more importantly, she’s standing firm on her decision not to seek the death penalty for the 21-year-old arrested last week for allegedly shooting a police officer in the troubled Bay View-Hunter’s Point neighborhood. Harris is using legal arguments – that the death penalty conviction and appeal process is cumbersome, expensive and often futile – but she’s also standing by a campaign promise. And she’s doing it under very difficult circumstances, facing down the local police union. It’s probably not fair to say that Harris is getting her strength of purpose from Newsom’s gay marriage decision but you can’t help but wonder if there’s something in the water. Seriously. When was the last time you saw a Liberal Democrat refuse to apologize and stand up for something? It’s getting to be uh, commonplace around here.

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