California senator Kamala Harris has launched her presidential campaign for 2020, adding to a crowded Democratic field dominated by a new generation of women and minority candidates.
The 54-year-old former prosecutor announced her bid for the White House on Monday in an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America programme, saying "The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values. That’s why I’m running for president of the United States."
She is the fifth Democrat to enter what is shaping up to be a fierce battle to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren have already announced their campaigns, along with congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and John Delaney, a Democratic Congressman from Maryland.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who ran for the nomination in 2016, are also expected to throw their hat into the ring in coming weeks.
JUST IN: @KamalaHarris on announcing she will be running for president in 2020: "I feel a responsibility to stand up and fight for who we are." https://t.co/qUX1sERxxZ pic.twitter.com/NcSHFTRIny
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 21, 2019
Ms Harris, 54, is a rising star within the party and came to national attention with her prosecution style grillings of Trump administration appointees and officials, including Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during Senate hearings.
Born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, Ms Harris would break several barriers if elected president. Her supporters believe she has a broad enough appeal to gain traction with a Democratic Party that is increasingly non white and fuelled by women who feel alienated by Mr Trump’s policies.
Monday’s announcement was carefully timed for its symbolism. Choosing to enter the race on Martin Luther King day, a federal holiday to recognise the civil rights leader, Ms Harris highlighted the historic nature of her candidacy. This week also marks 47 years since Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, became the first black woman to seek the Democratic nomination for president.
Ms Harris has also chosen to hold her first campaign event on Friday in South Carolina, a state where black voters are the dominant force in the Democratic primary, rather than the traditional first stops of Iowa and New Hampshire, the two predominantly white states that open the primary vote.
Mr Sanders and Cory Booker, another potential 2020 contender, were also in South Carolina on Monday, in a sign of how seriously they are taking the African American vote ahead of the next election. Mr Sanders used a public event marking Martin Luther King day to call Mr Trump "a racist", saying the president has purposely tried "to divide us up by the color of our skin, by our gender, by the country we came from, by our religion".
Mr Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at an event in Washington celebrating Mr King’s life. Mr Trump also marked the national holiday, laying a wreath by Mr King’s memorial in Washington DC, but he chose not to comment on the Democratic race.
The successful Democratic candidate will be the one that primary voters feel is best able to tackle Mr Trump and to appeal to the party’s many constituencies, which include white rural voters, young people, college-educated women and African Americans.
Ms Harris has focused her campaign on reducing the high cost of living with a middle-class tax credit, pursuing immigration and criminal justice changes and a Medicare-for-all healthcare system.
She has said she will reject corporate political action committee money, in a nod to the increasingly prominent progressive wing of the party which entered Congress earlier this year vowing to end corporate lobbying and campaign donations.
Ms Harris made a veiled dig at Mr Trump as said she felt a "responsibility to stand up and fight for the best of who we are" and regain America’s "moral authority" in the world.
She also debuted a campaign slogan, "Kamala Harris, for the people”, that aides said was a nod to her background as a prosecutor.
Ms Harris’ campaign will be based in Baltimore, with a second office in her hometown of Oakland, California. She will hold a launch rally in Oakland before the end of the month.