Kamala Harris got her political start as the girlfriend of California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. She was 29, he was 60 and he helped advance her career with political patronage.
Harris, who is now running for U.S. Senate to replace Barbara Boxer, is now the Attorney General.
Harris’s ties to Brown came up during her bid for San Francisco District Attorney in 2003. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen once called Harris “the Speaker’s new steady.” Brown went on to become the first black mayor of San Francisco.
As Brown’s time as speaker drew to a close in 1994, he named Harris to the California Medical Assistance Commission, a job that came with a $72,000 annual salary. Brown had previously appointed her to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.
She “was described by several people at the Capitol as Brown’s girlfriend,” the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.
Although that job paid nearly $98,000, Harris’ term was set to expire in five weeks when Brown tapped her for the Medical Assistance Commission slot. That body met only monthly and the $72,000 position was not consider a full-time job.
The Brown-Harris affair didn’t last long. She was spotted dating talk show host Montel Williams in 2001, but Brown continued to support her, helping her as mayor to become San Francisco’s first black district attorney over Terence Hallinan, a popular two-term incumbent.
Harris was narrowly elected California’s Attorney General in 2010. The election was widely seen as fraudulent.
Despite voter registration rolls that showed Democrats outnumbering Republicans statewide by some thirteen percent, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley led Harris by 34,000 votes after more than 7 million were counted. But after provisional ballots were counted, she was declared the winner by approximately 50,000 votes.