Kamala Harris & Willie Brown: Her Relationship With Former San Francisco Mayor Explained

kamala harris willie brown

Getty Kamala Harris and Willie Brown.

Yes, it’s true. U.S. Senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris dated former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown years ago and before he was elected to that prominent position. Because the married Brown was already a powerful politician and the pair had a large age gap, the relationship has been used as fodder by Harris’s political critics over the years, who have accused her of accruing career benefit from the relationship.

Brown hasn’t gone away easily; he’s penned two recent op-eds about Harris. For her part, Harris has expressed frustration over continued questions about the old relationship, once calling it an albatross around her neck.

Harris will debate Vice President Mike Pence for the first time on October 7, starting at 9 p.m. ET.

Today, Harris is married to Douglas Emhoff. They met in 2013 and were married the following year.

Here’s what you need to know about Kamala Harris’s relationship with Willie Brown:


1. Willie Brown Urged Harris Not to Accept the VP Position in an Op-Ed

willie brown

Getty Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (L) and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown visit during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 86th annual Winter Meeting at the Capitol Hilton January 25, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Brown certainly hasn’t gone quietly into that good night. Instead, he’s written about Harris as her political star continues to rise.

Brown wrote a column in the San Francisco Chronicle urging Harris to decline the VP slot. He wrote:

If Joe Biden offers the vice presidential slot to Sen. Kamala Harris, my advice to her would be to politely decline.

Harris is a tested and proven campaigner who will work her backside off to get Biden elected. That said, the vice presidency is not the job she should go for — asking to be considered as attorney general in a Biden administration would be more like it.

Now 86, Brown’s argument, made before Harris accepted the position, was that “the glory would be short-lived. Historically, the vice presidency has often ended up being a dead end. For every George H.W. Bush, who ascended from the job to the presidency, there’s an Al Gore, who never got there.” After she agreed to the nomination, Brown changed his mind and declared himself pleased by it, according to SFGate.


2. Harris Dated Brown Until He Was Elected San Francisco’s Mayor in the Mid 1990s & Considers the Relationship an ‘Albatross’

The relationship predated Brown’s election to the San Francisco mayoral post. At the time, Harris was an assistant prosecutor.

According to The New York Post, Harris, 55, dated Brown until 1996 and his election as San Francisco mayor.

In 1995, Brown publicly revealed, “It’s all over.”

In 2003, San Francisco Weekly wrote an article that probed the relationship when she was running for District Attorney. That article called Brown “Harris’ spurned ex-lover and unsolicited political backer.” The article noted that Harris chafed at having to even talk about the Brown relationship, saying, “I refuse to design my campaign around criticizing Willie Brown for the sake of appearing to be independent when 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.” She called their relationship an “albatross” around her neck.


3. Brown Has Admitted Helping Harris’s Career

Kamala Harris

GettyU.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to reporters after announcing her candidacy for President of the United States on January 21, 2019 in Washington, DC.

In yet another op-ed, Brown opened up about their relationship. The column was headlined, “Willie Brown: Sure, I dated Kamala Harris. So what?” In that column, Brown said he supported Harris’s career but “had also helped scores of other politicians over the years,” the Post reported, adding that he 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.”

You can read that op-ed here in full. In it, he wrote, “Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker.”

According to USA Today, Brown gave Harris a BMW and appointed her “to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and then to the Medical Assistance Commission – positions that paid her more than $400,000 over five years.” He said in his column that he had helped the careers of other politicians too.


4. Brown Was Married at the Time But He’d Been Estranged From His Wife for Years & the Relationship Wasn’t Secret

sonya molodetskaya and willie brown

GettyWillie Brown and Sonya Molodetskaya attend the Academy of Art University fashion show at Lincoln Center on September 6, 2013 in New York City.

A column in the San Francisco Chronicle once described their relationship as a “long affair.” The same article described how Brown had a “long-estranged wife, Blanche.” USA Today reported that Brown was still married to Blanche during his relationship with Harris but the relationship was known to be estranged so Harris and Brown’s relationship was not a secret. Brown was known to have a series of girlfriends, the newspaper reported.

SF Weekly described the relationship thusly: “Harris met Brown in 1994 when he was speaker of the state Assembly. She was 29, he was 60. Their May/December affair was the talk of the town during the year before Brown’s successful 1995 bid to become mayor. But shortly after he was inaugurated, Harris dumped Brown, a notorious womanizer.”

According to LA Mag, over the years, Harris’s critics have accused her of benefiting “professionally from the personal relationship.” They met in 1994 when she was an assistant prosecutor, the magazine reported, adding that he had been estranged from his wife since 1981. In the race for District Attorney, Brown supported her, but opponents raised the issue, questioning whether she could fairly prosecutor Brown allies if that became necessary.


5. Kamala Harris’s Husband, Douglas Emhoff, Is an Entertainment Lawyer

GettyKamala Harris and lawyer Douglas Emhoff in 2014.

Harris moved on from Brown years ago. She is now married to Douglas Emhoff.

Emhoff, Kamala Harris’s husband, is an entertainment attorney. He’s a partner with the firm DL Piper. His firm bio reads:

Douglas Emhoff is a highly experienced litigator and strategic advisor. Doug is known for tackling and resolving the toughest problems – whether by aggressively litigating high-stakes cases in the public glare or acting as a trusted advisor behind the scenes. For over 25 years, Doug has proven himself in courtrooms and boardrooms across California and around the country. He represents large domestic and international corporations and some of today’s highest profile individuals and influencers in complex business, real estate and intellectual property litigation disputes. Doug’s influence and achievements as an insider across many spectrums has made him one of California’s go-to lawyers for several decades.

He is based in California but also licensed to practice in Washington D.C., the bio says, reading, “Doug maintains a strong presence in both Southern and Northern California and is also licensed to practice in Washington, DC. Along with an active public life, he is passionately involved in numerous community, civic and charitable activities that include legal aid, human rights, social justice and the well-being of children.”

They frequently post on social media about each other.

The pair met on a blind date in 2013 when she was California’s Attorney General, according to Newsweek, which reported that Emhoff’s two children from his previous marriage call Harris “Momala.”

READ NEXT: Donald Harris, Kamala Harris’s Father.


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