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Kamala Harris picks Baltimore as site for headquarters for potential presidential campaign

Kamala Harris picks Baltimore as site for headquarters for potential presidential campaign
In this photo taken on Sept. 28, 2018, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speaks with survivors of sexual assault in Washington. (SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has selected Baltimore for her campaign headquarters if, as expected, she runs for president in 2020, according to sources familiar with the California Democrat’s plans.

Harris picked Baltimore because of its diversity, its proximity to Washington and because it is in the Eastern time zone, said the sources, who requested anonymity because Harris has not yet announced her plans.

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An announcement on her candidacy is expected soon. Harris’ Senate office declined to comment on her plans, including the selection of Baltimore.

One of the sources, who is close to the potential campaign, said the location of nearby BWI Marshall Airport was also a plus because it offers cross-country flights to Harris’ home state.

Harris has made occasional appearances in Maryland politics, most recently endorsing Ben Jealous this summer during his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. She also appeared in 2017 at the NAACP convention in Baltimore, where she called for national reform of cash bail and other criminal justice issues.

Harris has ties to Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who held a fundraiser in Los Angeles featuring the senator during Mosby’s re-election campaign. Mosby also has said she consulted with Harris after being elected, seeking to draw on her experience as a prosecutor in San Francisco and as California's attorney general.

“It’s the right choice," said Krish Vignarajah, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, of the Baltimore decision. “The race ought to focus on the future of cities like Baltimore. And Senator Harris is incredibly inspiring — hard not to love a strong, vertically challenged woman of color!”

Vignarajah is a board member of Emerge Maryland, a group seeking to increase the number of women from diverse backgrounds in public office.

Harris, 54, grew up in Oakland and is of Jamaican and Indian descent. She was elected in 2016 to the Senate after serving as California’s attorney general from 2011 to 2017, and as San Francisco district attorney before that.

Harris has criticized Republican President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, proposed criminal justice reforms and ardently opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court appointment, calling the nominee “unfit” to serve.

Trump alluded to Baltimore during the 2016 presidential campaign, talking about immigrant gangs in the city and elsewhere. He also noted the city’s crime problems.

Harris would join what is expected to be a wide Democratic field that could include former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

O’Rourke, who has not yet disclosed his intentions, has early support from 2016 presidential candidate Martin O'Malley. The former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor tweeted earlier this month that he won’t be running in 2020, “but I hope Beto O’Rourke does. It’s time for a new generation of leadership.”

U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have announced exploratory committees, and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney have announced their candidacies.

Harris has been widely expected to run. She recently wrote a memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” which says: “We are better than this. Americans know we’re better than this.”

"That's awesome news," said Howard County resident Dylan Goldberg — who is already campaigning for Harris in Maryland — when he heard of her possible Baltimore connection.

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"We are situated between two major battleground states. It's really exciting we're going to be the home to the Kamala Harris campaign."

Goldberg is running grassroots Twitter and Facebook pages supporting Harris.

"Having the headquarters in our backyard will mean a lot to all the volunteers," he said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.

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