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After her surprisingly (to some) good showing at the first Democratic presidential debate, in part thanks to an assist from her sister/Twitter admin, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-Hawaii) campaign has struggled to gain ground against a field of better-known candidates.
An hour-and-a-half into tonight’s debate, she got her moment.
Gabbard went in hard on the people’s champ of the first debate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), on her record as Attorney General of California.
“I want to bring the conversation back to the criminal justice system that is disproportionately negatively impacting black and brown people today,” Gabbard said. “Senator Harris says she’s proud of her records as a prosecutor and she’ll be a prosecutor president.”
Gabbard said that Harris put more than 1,500 people in jail for marijuana during her tenure “then laughed about when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
“She blocked evidence that would’ve freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so,” Gabbard continued. “She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California and she fought to keep a cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst way.”
The moderator then gave Harris a chance to address the one-two-three punch.
“As the elected attorney general of California, I did the work of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of a state of 40 million people that became a national model … I am proud of that work,” Harris said.
But Gabbard wasn’t done. Not even close.
“The bottom line is, Senator Harris, when you were in a position to make a difference and an impact in these people’s lives, you did not,” she said, referring back to the allegation that Harris didn’t release evidence that would exonerate people on death row. “There is no excuse for that. And the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor, you owe them an apology.”
Harris appeared to stumble momentarily.
“My entire career I have been personally opposed to the death penalty,” she said, recovering. Harris then said she dares people “to face the people I have faced to say I will not seek the death penalty.”
“It is not about a fancy opinion on a stage…. I made a very difficult decision that was not popular to not seek the death penalty.”
But the damage was done. Even Students for Trump took note of the dragging, tweeting, “Tulsi Gabbard just absolutely destroyed @KamalaHarris. She called her out for her *awful* record as a prosecutor…”
Bravo! Run Tulsi Run!Congresswoman @TulsiGabbard rips apart the glib and phony Senator @KamalaHarris on her shameful record as AG of California. #Tulsi just rolled over the fake senator with a bulldozer leaving Harris gasping for breath. Go for the jugular Tulsi. pic.twitter.com/XA76cs3q6N— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) August 1, 2019
Tulsi Gabbard accused Kamala Harris of a crime, people. This is not acceptable. #DemDebate2— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) August 1, 2019
RIP to Kamala Harris’s campaign campaign.— Ryan Fournier (@RyanAFournier) August 1, 2019
Killed on July 31, 2019 by Tulsi Gabbard.#DemDebate
Here's the tweet. SAD!https://t.co/OhkknnLmWV— Ethan Ralph (@TheRalphRetort) August 1, 2019
Gabbard’s campaign was riding so high, they even subtweeted Harris like a boss from her official account, retweeting this gem.
Kamala tells Tulsi "I challenge you to make decisions under fire" 😂 pic.twitter.com/H1lpAwoHU7— Jay IronHook (@JayIronHook) August 1, 2019
No matter what else happens on the campaign trail, tonight Gabbard had a moment in the sun.
- Tulsi Gabbard is suing Google for $50 million
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- Why every 2020 Democrat is canceled
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Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.