Kamala Harris declared victory this morning in the razor-close race for attorney general. With almost all the ballots counted, Harris is leading L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley by 73,102 votes.
Proving right off the bat that she will be a different kind of A.G., Harris announced a star-studded “transition team,” including former L.A.P.D. Chief Bill Bratton, criminal justice reformer Connie Rice, and former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and George Shultz. Those names suggest Harris has ambitions that go well beyond being California's “top cop.”
Harris also displayed some of her trademark caution when she was asked how she would handle the appeal in Schwarzenegger v. Plata, the prison overcrowding case being argued today before the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the campaign, she said she would not have pursued the appeal to the Supreme Court, and would have abided instead by a three-judge panel's order to reduce the state prison population.
Speaking today at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, however, Harris declinined to say what she would do with the case now that it's before the nation's highest court.
“I would need to read the briefs to make that decision,” she said.
Echoing the theme of her campaign, Harris said that she
would bring innovation to the state's criminal justice system and work to stop the revolving door of recidivism.
“We may have and can have and should have a role in reform of criminal
justice system, which at this point has the highest recidivism rate in
the country,” Harris said.
Though the attorney general is considered the state's top law enforcement officer, those issues are generally up to the governor and the Legislature.
As the L.A. Weekly reported earlier this month, one of Harris' biggest obstacles may be Gov.-Elect Jerry Brown, who has disappointed prison reformers in his four years as attorney general.
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