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Kamala Harris declares victory in attorney general's race

November 30, 2010 | 12:40 pm

Four weeks after election day, Democrat Kamala Harris declared victory in the race for attorney general on Tuesday, a narrow but historic win that makes her the first woman and first minority to be elected the state’s top law-enforcement official.

“I stand before you today humbled to be chosen to be the next attorney general of this state,” Harris said, her voice breaking with emotion as she spoke before scores of supporters in the Emerald Ballroom of the Millennium Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles. “I pledge and make a pledge to work hard every day to make sure the law of this state is on the side of the people of this state.”

Harris’ win over Republican Steve Cooley, Los Angeles county's district attorney, cemented a Democratic sweep of every statewide post in California, a remarkable feat in a year when Democrats saw deep losses in the rest of the nation.

Harris, San Francisco’s district attorney, praised Cooley for running a spirited campaign and vowed to work with him. Cooley conceded the race on Wednesday.

Harris planned to continue her victory swing Tuesday with a news conference and celebration in San Francisco. But she said she chose to start the day in Los Angeles to emphasize that she would represent all Californians.

“I thought it was important that we are clear that this position of attorney general is about representing all the people of the state of California,” she said.

Los Angeles was also key to Harris’ statewide victory; her 14-point win in Cooley’s backyard helped lift her toward her 75,000-vote margin out of nearly 8.8 million votes cast.

On Tuesday, she announced a laundry list of priorities -- reducing the state’s recidivism rate, which is the nation’s highest; helping homeowners facing foreclosure and being targeted by predatory lenders; protecting the state’s environment; ensuring the civil rights of Californians regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation; and using innovation and technology to attack problems such as identity theft.

Harris also named a transition team that includes former LAPD Chief William Bratton, former secretaries of state Warren Christopher and George Shultz, and civil-rights attorney Constance Rice.

After an 11-minute speech, Harris took a handful of questions from the press. She demurred when asked about current litigation with the city of Bell, or the prison overpopulation case that is before the Supreme Court. In both cases, she said, she needed to study the legal papers before commenting on them.

Asked to reflect on the meaning of her historic win -- as the first woman, African-American and Indian-American elected to the office -- Harris smiled brightly and said, “We’ll see!”

-- Seema Mehta in Los Angeles

Photo: Kamala Harris holds a news conference at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times.