NORWALK, Calif. --California Attorney General Kamala Harris wants to be a U.S. senator, and she has already been campaigning for a seat for more than a year.
"We got in early, we've been running hard, and this makes it official. So I'm very excited," Harris said.
Wednesday, she formally and legally declared herself a candidate, filling out the official paperwork at the registrar's office in Norwalk.
The Democratic attorney general is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer, who retires from her post at the end of her term in 2017.
Harris says there are some key issues she's focusing on, including education, the economy, the environment and equality.
"That's everything from what we need to do around continuing to fight for the rights for our LGBT brothers and sisters, to what we need to do around immigration reform, to what we need to do around protecting a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body," Harris said.
Since announcing, Harris has been the frontrunner, leading in the polls.
Luis Vizcaino, a campaign spokesman for Harris' Democratic rival Rep. Loretta Sanchez, maintained that Sanchez is the most qualified for the seat. He released the following statement:
- "California needs an experienced and proven leader to tackle the full range of economic, educational and foreign relation challenges we face today. Our next U.S. Senator must have an extensive legislative and national security background and share the life experiences of working families - and that's Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who last year was named one of the 25 most influential women in Congress by CQ Roll Call because she knows how to work with members from both sides of the aisle. She is the most qualified candidate for the job of U.S. Senator."
Republican candidate lawyer Duf Sundheim says he disagrees with Harris' stances but welcomes her into the race. His campaign released the following statement:
- "I welcome Ms. Harris into the race. Elections are about choices. The contrast between our candidacy and Ms. Harris' could not be clearer.
Ms. Harris has spent her entire adult life in government. She has often been chastised for her poor performance. For example, the state auditor called her out for her failure to get guns out of the hands of criminals. The Federal courts have accused her office of epidemic misconduct. I have never held elected office but have decades of experience achieving historic reforms for the people of California.
Ms. Harris believes it is acceptable for people who have been deported five times and committed seven felonies to stay in our country. I do not.
Ms. Harris is the chief law enforcement officer. She not only has failed to implement the education reforms mandated by the court in the Vergara decision, she has sued to stop their implementation condemning millions of students to failing schools. I have worked on a project where we have doubled the number of children on the honor role.
This election is not about party labels. It is about who has a vision for the future vs. who is a product of the status quo; who is going to fight for the children and their families vs. who is a defender of the special interests.
I have that vision, I will fight for those families and that is why we will win this election."
If Harris wins the seat, she would be the first Indian American to ever serve in the Senate and the second-ever African-American woman.
She says her strategy is to truly connect with voters.
"Sitting and talking with them and listening, most importantly, and then hopefully, this work will result in a successful bid for the United States Senate," Harris said.
Harris said she's heading to the Democratic convention in San Jose later this week and wanted to file her paperwork ahead of her trip.