Kamala Harris prefers to sprint through our nations’ airports in Converse Chuck Taylors. You can’t blame the 53-year-old junior senator and former state attorney general for California for wanting to move quickly: She’s spent the past two years raising hell in the Senate, voting “hell no” to Trump’s nominees and championing legislation to protect Dreamers and reform the criminal justice system. In the process, she’s emerged as a possible contender for 2020. Here’s how she gets it all done:
On a typical morning:
I work out every morning. Usually it’s half an hour on the elliptical or SoulCycle, and on the weekends Soul Survivor [a longer and more intense SoulCycle class]. Sometimes I swim if it’s not going to create an issue with my hair. Then I get ready. I usually stand at my kitchen counter eating some kind of Raisin Bran in almond milk while I look at my schedule for the day. It’s the generic Raisin Bran that I get from the grocery store — I try to not have a lot of sugar in it. I have tea with honey and lemon and then I’m out the door.
On the first person she speaks to after waking up:
My husband wakes up around 5 a.m. and I wake up an hour later. He reads the news first thing, so if I hear him making noises, I know it’s not going to be a good day. I’ll get up too and be like, “Oh God, what is it?” Then as soon as I get in the car on the way to the office I do a call with my senior staff and we go through the day and whatever has popped up overnight.
On her travel tips:
I run through airports in my Converse sneakers. I have a whole collection of Chuck Taylors: a black leather pair, a white pair, I have the kind that don’t lace, the kind that do lace, the kind I wear in the hot weather, the kind I wear in the cold weather, and the platform kind for when I’m wearing a pantsuit. When I travel, I always carry socks and a scarf to wrap around my neck because planes are very cold, and my husband loads up my iPad with shows and movies I can watch when I’m traveling at the end of the week, and I’m exhausted. I just totally binge-watched Stranger Things on a plane.
On what keeps her motivated:
For the last 18 months, I have seen people from every walk of life walking down the halls of Congress because they wanted to be seen. I’m talking about people such as the parents who, during the fight over the Affordable Care Act, were coming from all parts of the country with their children. I’m talking about Dreamers who, God only knows how they afforded to travel here — by car, by bus, by train, sleeping ten deep on someone’s living-room floor — came to Congress because they wanted to be heard.
On not letting the weight of expectation — or speculation about the 2020 election — get to her:
I’m a firm believer that you have to focus on the fight and the work that is right in front of you. I’m focusing on the 2018 election cycle. I’m focusing on children who are separated from their parents, and people who can’t pay their rent, and keeping Roe v. Wade intact. I feel the need to honor that priority and the urgency of it all, and that means being present. Being 100 percent present.
On how she makes tough decisions:
I really love working with my team. My process is to gather my senior staff, who are all very smart and thoughtful and trusted, and I go around the room and ask each person for their perspective. Being a leader means that you’re going to have to make difficult calls. You have to have the courage to do what’s right, even if it’s not popular. One of the weightiest decisions that I made in recent years in my career was in 2011 when I was state attorney general and I made the decision to pull California out of the national settlement with the big banks. That was a very difficult decision, but we ended up bringing $20 billion back to California.
On what she’s like as a boss:
I can be really tough (mostly on myself), but I believe that we have to always do the best that we can because there are so many people relying on us. It is also really important to me that the members of my team have a good sense of humor and that we find time to laugh. Sometimes I get on this kick with puns and it gets to the point that it just becomes silly.
On how she unwinds:
If I’ve had a particularly crazy day, I try to squeeze in a nice hot bath before I go to bed. And I have a hot cup of tea, usually some kind of chamomile. One of the things that I do to relax at the end of the day is I read recipes. I have a whole collection of cookbooks, so if I’m at home, I read them. It could be Marcella Hazan or Alice Waters. Sometimes I just do the New York Times cooking app if I’m on the road, or I try to get past the paywall on Bon Appétit.
On the therapeutic powers of cooking:
Everything else can be crazy, I can be on six planes in one week, and what makes me feel normal is making Sunday-night family dinner. If I’m cooking, I feel like I’m in control of my life. Recently I’ve been on this Mediterranean kick. My daughter only eats fish, no meat, so last weekend I made swordfish and I toasted cardamom and cumin seeds and did that with garlic and onion and lemon and kind of marinated it, and it was really delicious. Then I made lamb meatballs for everybody with mint and parsley and a little cilantro, and then I did this yogurt thing with cucumbers and a little sumac. We definitely listen to music when we cook — this Sunday we went old-school jazz.
On her advice to women considering running for office:
Run, with five exclamation points! Your country needs you. We need you! I’m very excited about the people who have never been involved and are getting involved in elections. I’m excited about all of these women and people of color who are running and aren’t burdened by who has traditionally held office. They know what can be. That excites me a great deal.