Now, Ms. Harris is seeking to restore the mystique that catapulted her into the highest echelons of the Democratic presidential race just two years after her election to the Senate. After her introduction in the first debate in June led to a jump in research and fundraising, her poll numbers dropped to average, making her a step below the contenders for the highest level of the race: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden- Jr., Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In response, Ms. Harris sharpened her message in politics. She sought input from a number of activists, including some of the black progressives who criticized her California record, for her criminal justice platform.
Miss. Harris also bases her explicit opinion on her identity as a woman with the dismantling of the barriers in the primary race, increasingly dominated by white candidates. In addition to any professional experience, Ms. Harris says she is best suited to disrupting the penal system that has disproportionately affected minority communities as she has more personal experience with those communities.
"The thing is, when I see people we talk about who are in the system, I see them in a multidimensional way," Ms. Harris said. "And I don't just see them by race and gender. This is not something I read about. It's more complicated than just knowing the history of racism in America – which most people don't – it's also being able to see them as people . "
She asked if it was still possible for
" Communities, and especially the black community, have a right to distrust law enforcement based on a history of empirical evidence – they have a reason to distrust, "she said. "But I understand that it was – that was part of the reason to become a prosecutor because I understood that there were good reasons for not trusting the system and it needed to be changed."