Former SF mayor Willie Brown says he 'influenced' ex-girlfriend Kamala Harris' career

Laying claim to her success: Former SF mayor Willie Brown says he 'influenced' ex-girlfriend Kamala Harris' career and 'certainly helped' her district attorney win - despite the fact their brief relationship almost derailed her campaign in 2003

  • Willie Brown and Kamala Harris dated for seven months in the early 1990s 
  • He was State Assembly Speaker for 15 years, appointing her to unemployment insurance appeals board, California medical assistance commission 
  • Brown was (and remains) married, but split from wife in 1982 and publicly dated 
  • Harris dumped Brown, known for being a womanizer, after he was elected mayor
  • But their relationship became a major campaign issue for her opponents in 2003
  • They claimed Harris wouldn't be an impartial DA to Brown because of the fling 
  • Harris refused to design her campaign around criticizing Brown and said she did not 'owe him a thing'

By Dailymail.com Reporter

Published: 12:59 EST, 27 January 2019 | Updated: 17:17 EST, 27 January 2019

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is taking credit for helping Kamala Harris' career after the California senator declared she was running for president. 

Harris and Brown dated for just seven months, but their relationship has followed her career for decades. 

And it seems speculation around the brief fling won't be going anywhere any time soon after Brown wrote a column about it for the San Francisco Chronicle. 

The piece may be titled 'Sure, I dated Kamala Harris. So What?', but Brown takes the time to both claim he influenced Harris' career and get in a swipe at her in the brief piece. 

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is taking credit for helping Kamala Harris' career after the California senator declared she was running for president. The couple briefly dated in the early 1990s 
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is taking credit for helping Kamala Harris' career after the California senator declared she was running for president. The couple briefly dated in the early 1990s 

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is taking credit for helping Kamala Harris' career after the California senator declared she was running for president. The couple briefly dated in the early 1990s 

Brown (pictured in 2017) claims he both influenced Harris' career and helped her get elected as San Francisco District Attorney is a new column 
Brown (pictured in 2017) claims he both influenced Harris' career and helped her get elected as San Francisco District Attorney is a new column 

Brown (pictured in 2017) claims he both influenced Harris' career and helped her get elected as San Francisco District Attorney is a new column 

'I've been peppered with calls from the national media about my "relationship" with Kamala Harris, particularly since it became obvious that she was going to run for president. Most of them, I have not returned,' he begins the column. 

'Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commission when I was Assembly speaker.' 

Brown was speaker of the California State Assembly for 15 years, during which he appointed Harris to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the California Medical Assistance Commission. 

The former mayor also writes that he 'certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco' in 2003. 

'I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov Gavin Newsom, Sen Dianne Feinstein and a host of other politicians,' Brown wrote. 

'The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I "so much as jaywalked" while she was D.A.' That's politics for ya.' 

What Brown fails to note in his biting last words is that his brief relationship with Harris was considered a major issue while she was first running for district attorney in 2003, dominating headlines and her male competitors' talking points about her. 

Harris met Brown in 1994, when he was speaker of the state assembly and she was serving as the deputy district attorney in Alameda County in California. She was 29 at the time, he was 60. 

They dated from May to December that year. Harris dumped Brown shortly after he was elected mayor of San Francisco. 

But her brief relationship with Brown almost derailed Harris' DA campaign as her opponents claimed she couldn't be impartial to Brown, who at that point was a lame duck mayor 
But her brief relationship with Brown almost derailed Harris' DA campaign as her opponents claimed she couldn't be impartial to Brown, who at that point was a lame duck mayor 

But her brief relationship with Brown almost derailed Harris' DA campaign as her opponents claimed she couldn't be impartial to Brown, who at that point was a lame duck mayor 

Some were bothered by the fact that Brown technically was still married when he dated Harris, despite the fact that he had been amicably separated from his wife Blanche Vitero since 1982. 

And the flashy politician, known for his fleet of sports cars and womanzing ways, never kept his dating life a secret. 

In 1984, Brown was named one of the world's 10 sexiest men by Playgirl magazine. 

He was known to have a 'succession of girlfriends', sometimes showing up to a party with 'his wife on one arm and his girlfriend on the other', said James Richardson, who wrote Brown's biography in 1996. 

Brown, who also has three adult children, would go on to have a baby with his chief fundraiser in 2001. Still, he made it clear he had no plans to divorce his wife. 

'Mayor Brown has been fairly open about his marital status and how he lives his life,' his spokesman said at the time.  

Harris (pictured greeting Brown in 2017) said she refused to design her campaign around criticizing Brown but that she also did not 'owe him a thing' 
Harris (pictured greeting Brown in 2017) said she refused to design her campaign around criticizing Brown but that she also did not 'owe him a thing' 

Harris (pictured greeting Brown in 2017) said she refused to design her campaign around criticizing Brown but that she also did not 'owe him a thing' 

Meanwhile, Harris' opponents District Attorney Terence Hallinan and Bill Fazio tried to argue that Harris wouldn't be an impartial DA to Brown - who at that point was a lame duck mayor - because of their seven-month relationship nearly a decade prior.  

Harris called Brown an 'albatross hanging around my neck' at the time of her campaign and made it clear she felt no alliance to him despite their past relationship. 

'I refuse to design my campaign around criticizing Willie Brown,' she told SF Weekly in 2003. 

'I have no doubt that I am independent of him - and that he would probably right now express some fright about the fact that he cannot control me.' 

'His career is over. I will be alive and kicking for the next 40 years. I do not owe him a thing.' 

Harris also denied that she ever asked Brown for fundraising help amid reports he donated $500 - the maximum allowed - to her campaign while one of his former political consultants was raising money on her behalf without her consent. 

'Would it make sense if you are a martian coming to Earth that the litmus test for public office is where a candidate is in their relationship to Willie Brown?' she said. 

'Willie Brown is not going to be around. He's gone - hello people, move on. If there is corruption, it will be prosecuted. It's a no-brainer.' 

Harris' comments were echoed by her sister, Maya Harris West, and mother Shyamala Gopalan, who both called the stories unfair and sexist. 

'This hype around Willie Brown is such a distraction and so opportunistic, sexist, and ridiculous,' said West. 

'When a woman dates an accomplished man, why are people so willing to assume it's only because of him that the woman is successful?' 

'What has Willie Brown done for her? Introduce her to society people when they dated?' added Gopalan. 'If they did not like Kamala on her own right, they would have dropped her after she dropped Willie.'  

The headlines weren't enough to bring down Harris' campaign. 

After initially lagging in the polls, she won the election and became the state's first African American district attorney.  

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