Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown broke his silence on his relationship with Democratic senator Kamala Harris on Saturday, admitting in his weekly column that he used his powerful post to boost her young career when they dated.
Brown, who was openly in an extramarital relationship with Harris when he was speaker of the California State Assembly and running for mayor, had avoided commenting on his relationship with Harris since she announced her run for president a week ago. Harris has also managed to avoid addressing the role Brown played in the early stages of her political career.
In his weekly San Francisco Chronicle column, however, Brown referred to it as the “elephant in the room” and acknowledged that he used his position to help her career.
“I’ve been peppered with calls from the national media about my ‘relationship’ with Kamala Harris, most of which I have not returned,” Brown wrote. “Yes, we dated.”
Brown goes on to address the fact that he appointed Harris, who was just a few years out of law school and working at the Alameda County district attorney’s office, to two well-paid posts on California state commissions and later helped her in her first election.
“Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker,” he writes. “And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco.”
The two reportedly broke up in December 1995 just before he became mayor, but he remained a political ally.
Brown is credited for connecting Harris with the donors who boosted her successful 2004 campaign for San Francisco district attorney, during which she outraised her incumbent opponent. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that Brown’s “stamp of approval was crucial in raising money from the San Francisco establishment.”
Brown attempts to belittle his help for Harris, noting that he also “helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.” He was never involved romantically with any of these three.
The two positions Brown appointed Harris to—on the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the California Medical Assistance Commission—paid handsomely. SF Weekly reported back in 2003 that the two positions earned her more than $400,000 over five years.