Kamala Harris Sworn In As California's First Black Senator
On Tuesday morning, former state Attorney General Kamala Harris was sworn in as California's newest U.S. senator. Harris joins Senator Dianne Feinstein in representing the Golden State, replacing longtime California Senator Barbara Boxer, who retired after serving for 24 years.
Harris made history twice this morning when she was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden: she's not only California's first black senator, but she's also the first Indian American to ever serve in the U.S. Senate. According to the L.A. Times, only nine black Americans have ever served in the U.S. Senate, which is insane.
Harris, who was backed by Biden, President Barack Obama, and a long list of other leading Democrats, beat out Loretta Sanchez, a 10-term congresswoman, for the seat. She is also California's first new senator in 24 years (as The Atlantic helpfully explained back in 2015, "The last time California had a male or Republican senator, George H.W. Bush was president, Boyz II Men was dominating the charts, and Czechoslovakia was still a country.") Boxer praised Harris in a farewell speech on the Senate floor, saying she was "ecstatic" that Harris was her successor, according to the L.A. Times. “Kamala, you heard it here: a strong, progressive woman in this seat is what we need," Boxer said.
Harris is the daughter of an Indian physician mother and a Jamaican American economics professor father. She vehemently pledged her support for undocumented Californians and doubled down on her commitment to protect their rights at a press conference at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles two days after the November election.
The 52-year-old newly sworn in senator is widely considered to be among the Democratic party's brightest lights, and her name has even been floated as a possible contender for the 2020 election. Harris, as The Atlantic put it, "is the kind of candidate both parties dream of: young (for a politician, at least; she's 50), charismatic, multiethnic, accomplished." WGBH, Boston's NPR affiliate, has called her "the best hope to be the first female American president," and The Guardian listed her as one of their top Americans to watch in 2017.