SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is a longtime public figure in the Bay Area, but she’s also intensely private about her personal life. Looking to learn more about her now that she’s running for President, KPIX turned to Harris’ longtime friend and campaign consultant, Debbie Mesloh.
“I think most people would say that they remember the first time they meet Kamala Harris,” said Mesloh.
For her, it was while Mesloh was working for Dianne Feinstein in her 2000 re-election bid. She and Feinstein were in the green room at an event when Harris came in to talk to Feinstein.
“At the time, Dianne Feinstein said, ‘Wow, I think that young woman is really gonna go places,'” Mesloh recalled.
Harris and Mesloh subsequently worked together to start the Emerge California program and, in 2003 when Harris ran for District Attorney, Mesloh volunteered for the campaign. When Harris won, Mesloh stayed on as the Communications Director.
In 2007, when it was clear there was no big challenger for Harris’ re-election, Mesloh left the DA’s office to work with the Obama campaign and then in the Obama administration. But she came back to California in 2010 to work on Harris’ Attorney General campaign, staying on for several months in communications, before departing for the private sector.
In 2016, Mesloh once again worked for Harris’ campaign – this time as she ran for U.S. Senate. Mesloh also ran the transition team as Harris moved from Sacramento to Washington, D.C.
“I’m so fortunate to have her in my life as a friend, a mentor and a boss,” said Mesloh.
Harris was raised in Berkeley until she was 12, and came back to the Bay Area for law school. Mesloh says Harris has a close group of friends here and another close group in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Douglas Emhoff.
One perk of being Harris’ friend is the annual birthday phone call and serenade.
“It’s a tradition,” laughs Mesloh. “And she always apologizes before she starts singing. She’s like, ‘You know I’ve gotta do this.’ And she never forgets.”
Another tidbit people may not know about Harris is that she’s a huge fan of the musician Prince.
“The night he died, she said that she and her husband turned on Prince music, played it in the backyard, and she’s like, ‘We just danced to the Prince music for hours.’ She loved, loved Prince,” explained Mesloh
But Harris’ big passion is cooking. She loves to do it to relax and to get creative.
“She’s really conscious of her father’s Jamaican heritage and her mother’s Indian heritage. She cooks dishes that speak to those cultures,” said Mesloh.
In fact, Harris is frequently known to call into radio cooking shows. Mesloh recalls one incident during the 2016 campaign when she and Harris and a few other people were in a car, and a cooking show was playing on the radio. “
“She’s on the phone and I think she’s just making a phone call,” recalled Mesloh. “And one point I’m like, ‘That sounds like Kamala’s voice.’ And she had called into the cooking show — and it was on the car radio! She was talking about how to brine a chicken. She calls into cooking shows. She loves to cook.”
Mesloh noted that during the last two years the Harris has been a Senator, she has started to let her hair down and show a bit more of her personality. That will likely happen more as the Presidential campaign goes on.
“She’s going to be prepared. She’s going to do what it takes to come into the arena smart and ready and strategic. But she’s also going to do it with some pizzazz and some flair, said Mesloh.