Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown responded to scrutiny over his past relationship with Kamala Harris and the role he played in her career

  • Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris’s, 54, past relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, 84, has once again come under scrutiny after the California Democratic senator announced her plan to run for president.
  • Brown responded to it in a column Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • “Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker,” Brown wrote. “And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco.”

Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California has been running for president for less than a week, but already questions are bubbling up about her past – both professionally and personally.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, with whom Harris had a relationship in the 1990s, said he’s been getting more calls from media asking about the relationship and its impact on her political career since Harris announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago,” Brown wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday. “Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker. And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco.”

Willie Brown
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown Getty Images

Brown pointed out that he had helped other political careers as well, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. But Harris was different, he wrote.

“The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that that I would be indicted if I ‘so much as jaywalked’ while she was D.A.”

Representatives for Harris did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the remarks.

Read more:
What you need to know about Kamala Harris and her 2020 presidential bid

This isn’t the first time her history with Brown has come under scrutiny. Harris became the first African-American woman to serve as San Francisco’s district attorney in 2004. During that campaign, her past relationship with Brown emerged as a talking point for her opponent, who suggested the relationship could pose a conflict of interest.

Brown, who served as mayor of San Francisco at the time, had told her campaign that it needed to raise $US1 million, US News and World Report wrote in a 2017 piece on Harris’s career. Brown personally gave $US500 toward the campaign, SFWeekly reported in 2003 ahead of the DA election, and helped Harris meet donors and secure donations. After her election, some have scrutinised Brown’s level of involvement in her election.

Politico reports that when an audience member at a campaign forum asked how Harris would stay independent from Brown’s political reach, she responded with her plan: “Make them understand that if they’re going to try to hurt you, they’re going to get more hurt.”

Harris went on to become the first woman of colour to serve as California’s attorney general and the first woman of colour to represent California in the US Senate when she was elected in 2016.

Her 25-year track record as San Francisco’s DA and the state’s AG could come under scrutiny from progressives as well during her presidential bid for her stance on prosecutorial misconduct and the death penalty.

Harris is jumping into the 2020 presidential race alongside fellow senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand. Experts told INSIDER’s Mariana Alfaro that the female candidates can expect to get more scrutiny than their male counterparts in the 2020 race.