Harris in San Francisco: 'Leave Joe Biden Alone'

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Sen. Kamala Harris answers questions at the International Hotel in San Francisco's Chinatown on Sept. 28, 2019. (Scott Shafer/KQED)

"I'm home!" Sen. Kamala Harris exclaimed as she was greeted by old friends and colleagues on Kearny Street on her way to a Saturday afternoon event in San Francisco's Manilatown, where about 100 residents and neighbors of the International Hotel had gathered.

Harris was met outside by three members of the Bay Area's state legislative delegation, Assemblymen Phil Ting and David Chiu from San Francisco and East Bay Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American elected to the California Legislature.

Assembly members Phil Ting (left), David Chiu and Rob Bonta greeted Harris in Chinatown Saturday. (Scott Shafer/KQED)

After months of campaign stops in early primary states like Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Harris seemed genuinely relieved to be back in the place where her political career started as district attorney.

Harris took a short tour of photos and artwork at the International Hotel, a symbol of urban renewal that became the site of protests in the late 1970s when the previous building there with its low-income single-room occupancy rooms was demolished. A new building that replaced the old International Hotel now provides housing for seniors on the edge of Chinatown.

Harris, whose presidential campaign was launched with such promise before a packed crowd of some 20,000 people in Oakland in January, has seen her fortunes slip as other candidates, most notably Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have gained traction and surpassed her in polls.

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Asked how she planned to regain momentum in the 2020 presidential nomination race, Harris did what most politicians who are behind do — she dismissed the polls.

"All my friends who have been here and following my career for many years that I've been in office in California, you'll know that I have a very complicated relationship with polls," she joked. "Almost every poll that for every one of my races — certainly for district attorney and attorney general — said I couldn't win. But the American people, the California voter didn't listen. I didn't listen and they didn't listen."

Harris said she would continue to focus on the issues, including gun violence, climate change and criminal justice reform.

Harris was asked about the impeachment inquiry launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week, based on President Trump's conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.  On that call, Trump repeatedly urged Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian oil company when Biden was serving as President Barack Obama's vice president.

Asked, if she were elected president, if she'd allow the son or daughter of her vice president to serve on the board of a foreign oil company, Harris said "probably not," but then launched into an attack on Trump's focus on Biden, which she called "a distraction."

"As far as I'm concerned, leave Joe Biden alone," Harris said. "Just leave him alone on this issue of what this president has done that has been about corrupting America's democracy, being in cahoots with a foreign leader to yet again try and manipulate the election of the president of the United States."

"I'm not going to be distracted by what this president is trying to play, which is a game because he knows that he is actually, probably looking at an indictment. And is trying to then distract from the realities of his behaviors that have been in violation of our moral, our ethical and probably our legal rules and mores."

Harris' plea to "leave Biden alone" is somewhat ironic, given that it was her attack on Biden's position on school busing in the 1970s that gave her campaign a rush of publicity and cash in the first debate back in June. But that was then.

With a Monday night deadline approaching for the end of the third quarter fundraising period, Harris left the event for what was described by campaign staff as "small donor" event. Mirroring her position in the polls, Harris has struggled to keep pace with the fundraising demands of a national campaign.