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Kamala Harris: how the Tony Blair of San Francisco made her name and became Joe Biden’s VP pick

Niki Solis, who was a manager in the city’s public defender office when Harris was District Attorney, says she feels compelled to highlight her achievements, despite the fact that the two were often opposed.

“There is no question in my mind that she was the most progressive prosecutor in California. There’s no question, and for people to even want to debate that is ludicrous to me,” says Ms Solis, now a deputy public defender.

She describes Ms Harris as “receptive, respectful, always professional”, praising her decisions to stop prosecuting underage girls for prostitution – a cause Solis was particularly passionate about – and her steadfast refusal to seek the death penalty, even in a case where a police officer was killed. 

“There are times where she didn’t agree and she was straightforward about it. But she seemed to be very receptive, and she considered our position. That to me is what’s important in a leader: someone who is going to listen to folks who are viewed as their adversaries,” Ms Solis says.

Others have described Ms Harris as “a zealot about public service” who worked 12-14 hour days and responded to inquiries about her health with the stony declaration: “I don’t get sick.”

Read more: US election poll tracker 2020

Seducing the Golden Gate aristocracy

Hard work, of course, only gets you so far in San Francisco. It is a historical centre for the old money of America’s West Coast: the Haas family, the Shorensteins, the De Youngs, the Gettys (as in Getty Images), the Swigs, and so on.

Enter Kamala Harris’s other great skill: schmoozing the rich.

“She burst on the scene and absolutely enchanted an element of San Francisco society that would not otherwise be engaged in something like the district attorney’s race,” he says Dale Carlson, a veteran San Francisco PR man and lobbyist.

“The financial support that they have provided to her has been quite exceptional.”

Two of her biggest backers have been Susie Tompkins Buell, a co-founder of the clothing companies Esprit and North Face, and Mark Buell, whose career has woven in and out of municipal government and real estate development.

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