Kamala Harris visits UNI

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) addressed students during a visit to UNI on Friday, Sept. 20.


As part of a series of campaign events across eastern and central Iowa, 2020 presidential hopeful and senator Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) joined UNI students and faculty, as well as members of the community, in Maucker Union on Friday, Sept. 20.

Throughout her speech, Harris focused on what unites the American people, not what divides them. She spoke directly to what keeps Americans up at night and what citizens must do to remedy the root of the problem.

After rallying the crowd with her opening remarks, Harris opened up the forum for audience questions. Many of the questions she received pertained to the issues of teacher pay and public education funding, women’s rights, voter suppression, criminal justice and her ability to appeal to the whole nation, not just Democrats.

Reflecting on Senator Harris’ campaign, Maggie Bullerman, a freshman English education major, said, “She includes people of all backgrounds, which is such a big deal. Trump’s administration is for the rich, white man. She’s very much the opposite. [Harris thinks] anyone who can be in the conversation needs to be in the conversation.”

“I think that Kamala Harris has a very strong presence when she speaks. She has strong opinions and is very well-spoken,” said Ryan Frank, a senior majoring in social work. “She impressed me with her overall presence and her ability to speak on important issues.”

While the issues surrounding a candidate’s platform are important, another concern that is influencing potential caucus-goers is whether a particular candidate has the ability to win against Trump in the 2020 race.

When asked whether or not Senator Harris has what it takes to defeat Trump if she were to receive the Democratic nomination, junior political communication major Morgan Pratkelis said, “I think Kamala’s record as a prosecutor shows that she can go up [against] the most fierce opponents and come out victorious. I think she’d be able to take him [Trump] on in a debate very well.”

While she did touch on most of the major issues regarding the current political climate, Senator Harris was not able to discuss every concern with the time she had.

Mahlia Brown, a senior psychology major, appreciated Harris’ strong stances on concerns of climate change, criminal justice reform, equality and other issues. However, she is holding out on her decision until hearing how Harris and other candidates speak to the issue of LGBTQ rights.

“I want to see where she can take that in terms of LGBTQ issues, considering that our country isn’t as progressive as it could be. That’s really what I’m looking for,” said Brown.

After Senator Harris spoke, members of her campaign team tried to gather commitments to caucusing for Harris.

Many in the audience, however, still consider themselves to be undecided as to who they will caucus for in the 2020 race, and are attending on-campus events to become more informed.

“As a first-time voter, I want to know what I’m voting for. It’s kind of a big deal,” said Bullerman, who also attended Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) campus tailgate.

According to a recent Des Moines Register poll, Harris ranks fifth among “likely Democratic caucusgoers” in Iowa, polling at 6%. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) currently leads the poll at 22%, followed by former vice president Joe Biden at 20% and Sanders at 11%.