Advisers warned Kamala Harris over political perils of truancy prosecutions

More than a decade ago, advisers to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris warned their boss about the political perils of prosecuting parents in school truancy crackdowns. It turns out that they were right.

Harris, now a senator for California and one of more than two dozen Democrats seeking to become her party’s standard-bearer next year, details the warnings of the unnamed advisers in her 2009 book, Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer.

“A lot of people told me not to take on this issue,” she writes. “They said the problem was too big to address and that there were no political benefits to wading into these waters. Frankly, my staff winced at my plan.”

Her staff appears to have been onto something. Democratic rivals are now picking apart her record as a line prosecutor in Alameda County, San Francisco district attorney, and state attorney general. And for criminal justice reform activists, the truancy issue is part of the “She’s a cop” critique they claim places her well to the right of the Democratic primary electorate.

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