At Oakland Watch Party, Some Harris Skeptics Ask: ‘Where Have You Been?’

“I like the younger voters, the folks who are not the norm,” said Dian Johnson Harrison, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California who lives in Oakland. “The country is in a weird place for people of color.”

“Weird is one way of saying it,” her friend Carole Watson, 74, chimed in.

“There’s going to be people who say she can’t do it, she can’t be president,” Ms. Harrison continued. “I don’t know those people and it should not be that way, but that’s the reality.”

Ms. Harris had not yet spoken much during the debate when she began to lace into Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who had previously gone after Ms. Harris’s record as a prosecutor.

“Go on girl, get it,” one woman shouted at the large screen at the front of the room.

Many here believed that Ms. Harris was at last making her own policy stances clear Wednesday, something they welcomed with relief.

“I want to be hearing more detail from her, like what does she really think? And what are her plans? I love Elizabeth Warren because she’s been so straightforward,” said Shanice Wolcott, 46, a social worker. “She does seem a lot less defensive, maybe because she’s an underdog now and maybe she understands that we can’t just have a bunch of infighting up there.”

Perhaps, suggested Gina Tomlin, a 50-year-old technology consultant, Ms. Harris has been wary of unfairly being perceived as an “angry black woman.”

“That perception is very real and very worrisome,” Ms. Tomlin said. “She has been humbled by the struggle she’s had on the national arena, because here she had nothing but success. But the rest of the country isn’t our California bubble. I think she’s the most intelligent person up there, but she cannot win in this climate that we’re in.”

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