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Editorial: In Support of Kamala Harris

By Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Tuesday July 06, 2004

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is not conventional for newspapers to turn over their editorial space to “politicians.” Papers are expected to maintain a detached approach to the issues of the day, and to assume that those who represent us are guilty until proven innocent. But the owners and publishers of this paper (which has never been accused of being conventional) have had a “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me” bumper sticker on their old red van since Barbara was the sole vote against the invasion of Afghanistan. Our senior editor, who was living in Napa at the time, remembers thinking that he wished she was his representative. Of course, we reserve the right to tell our Congresswoman if she makes any mistakes in the future, but today we’re very pleased that she’s written this guest editorial for us. Today, Barbara Lee speaks for the Berkeley Daily Planet.  


The violent death of San Francisco Police Officer Isaac Espinosa is a tragedy that has caused great sorrow. Of course, my heart goes out to the family of Officer Espinosa, to his fellow officers and to a community that seeks justice—just as every reasonable person does. 

Some in the community—especially his family and colleagues in the Police Department—have tried to build sufficient pressure to force District Attorney Kamala Harris to seek the death penalty, despite her clearly stated and long-held opposition to this ultimate sanction. She has been harshly criticized for remaining true to her pledge to the electorate not to seek the death penalty—in other words she's being asked to break her compact with the voters. 

I understand why the use of—or refusal to use—the death penalty arouses such strong emotions. But there is too much evidence that the death penalty is the wrong penalty for our society. I understand the enormous pressures on Kamala Harris when she stands for principle in the face of controversy. I salute her willingness to stand tall in the face of overwhelming criticism, and in so doing, she vindicates the most important principle of our representative democracy: Elected officials should stand by their pledges to the voters. 

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the death penalty—in this case in particular, or in general—we should all respect the district attorney for fulfilling her commitment to these voters. 


Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents California’s ninth district. ›