Where She Stands: Histories and Policies of the Women Running in 2020

By Alexandra Mork

This year, an unprecedented number of women are running for president. If you want to learn more about their backgrounds, accomplishments, 2020 policies, and controversies, this article may be a helpful resource. 

Amy Klobuchar: 

  • Background: Klobuchar was born in Minnesota to a teacher and a journalist. She graduated from Yale University where she majored in political science and the University of Chicago where she received her J.D. She worked as an attorney and partner for Dorsey & Whitney as well as Gray Plant Moody. After giving birth, Klobuchar had to leave the hospital in 24 hours despite the fact that her newborn daughter was unable to swallow. Her testimony before Minnesota's legislature about her experience led the state to expand hospital stays for new mothers to 48 hours. Check out this website to learn more. 


  • Political History and Accomplishments: In 1998 and 2002, Klobuchar successfully ran for the office of Hennepin County Attorney. In 2006, Klobuchar was elected to the US Senate. Klobuchar passed more legislation than any other senator in the 114th Congress; she passed legislation to end the opioid epidemic, increased funding for STEM education, received funding to repair a collapsed bridge, passed consumer protection legislation, and more. During her time in the Senate, she served on the Committee on the Judiciary, Joint Economic Committee, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Committee on Rules and Administration, the Joint Committee on Printing, and the Joint Committee on the Library. For more information, look at her website for the Senate or her wikipedia page. 


  • 2020 Policies: Klobuchar’s top priority as President of the United States would be to pass her infrastructure proposal. She also supports the Green New Deal, federal incentives to increase teacher pay and improve education, universal background checks, and the protection of dreamers. To learn more, check out her website or click here.


  • Controversies: Klobuchar has been accused by several of her former employees of mistreatment; they say she intentionally humiliated them, became unreasonably angry over small mistakes, and even threw office supplies at them. She also has a higher employee turnover rate than any other senator, which some people view as evidence of mistreatment of her employees. Klobuchar’s campaign spokesperson responded by saying that she deeply respects her staff. Other aides have also come to Klobuchar’s defense claiming that she is a kind boss and that the criticisms stem from sexism. To learn more, click here.


Elizabeth Warren:

  • Background: Warren grew up in Oklahoma in a middle-class family. Her father was a salesman and her mom began working at a department store after her father’s heart attack. In high school, Warren worked as a waitress and was a very accomplished debater. She attended George Washington University for two years on a debate scholarship, but dropped out to get married. After graduating from the University of Houston with a degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology, she worked as an elementary school teacher. While raising her daughter, Amelia, and pregnant with her son, Alexander, Warren received a J.D. from Rutgers Law School. After graduating law school, Warren taught law at a variety of universities including Harvard, Rutgers, and the University of Pennsylvania while also researching bankruptcy and consumer protection laws. Throughout her career, Warren has written 11 books. Check out Warren’s wikipedia page to learn more.


  • Political History and Accomplishments: In 1995, Warren acted as an advisor to the National Bankruptcy Commission. In 2008, she was appointed to the Congressional Oversight Panel and in 2010 she helped form the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an adviser to the president and the Treasury secretary. In 2013, Warren became a member of the United States Senate, representing Massachusetts. During her first year in office, she introduced the Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, allowing students to borrow from the government at the same interest rate that banks are able to. In 2014, she was appointed Strategic Adviser of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and the following year, she re-introduced the Glass Steagall Act. In 2017, Warren attempted to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King about Jeff Sessions on the Senate floor despite objections. This led Mitch Mcconnell to say, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” “Nevertheless, she persisted” soon became a significant slogan not only for Waren, but also for the feminist movement. In 2018, she won re-election as a senator and in 2019, she announced her candidacy for president. Throughout her career, she has been a member of the Committee on Armed Services, Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Special Committee on Aging. For more information, read this article. 


  • 2020 Policies: Warren has many, many detailed policy proposals for 2020. Some of her most significant proposals include student debt cancellation for people who make below $100,000 annually, tuition-free college at public universities, a universal childcare plan to increase workers wages and decrease families costs, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for All. Her ambitious plans would largely be paid for by a wealth tax, which would make people with over $50 million pay taxes on their wealth in addition to their incomes. To learn more about Warren’s policies, click here or visit her website for president.


  • Controversies: Warren was heavily criticized for claiming to be Cherokee throughout her career. In order to substantiate her claims, Warren released a video in 2018, demonstrating that she had some very distant indigenous ancestors. Many people felt that this video simply revealed Warren’s lack of understanding of Cherokee culture because she conflated DNA with tribal citizenship. To learn more, click here.




Kamala Harris:

  • Background: Harris was born in Oakland, California. Her mother was a breast cancer scientist and her father was a professor. After her parents divorce, Harris moved to Quebec, Canada. At Howard University, she majored in political science and economics and at Hastings College of Law, she received her J.D. If you want to learn more, visit her wikipedia page. 


  • Political History and Accomplishments: After graduating law school, Harris became a deputy district attorney in Alameda County. In 2003, she became the District Attorney of San Francisco. In that position, she prosecuted hate crimes, started the Back on Track initiative, which helped first-time drug offenders clear their records if they meet certain educational and employment qualifications, and attempted to increase bail for criminals using guns. During her time as District Attorney, felony conviction rates increased substantially. In 2010, Harris was elected Attorney General of California. As Attorney General, she prosecuted banks responsible for the housing crisis, indicted oil companies, and created the Bureau of Children’s Justice. In 2016, Harris was elected to the US Senate, representing California. This made her the first South Asian senator and second African American female senator. She has passed legislation to address the opioid epidemic, introduced election security legislation, supported criminal justice reform (introduced the Access to Counsel Act, voted for the First Step Act, co-sponsored the Marijuanna Justice Act), and more. For more information, click here or here.


  • 2020 Policies: Harris says the first thing she will do as President is pass tax cuts for middle class Americans. Although she has shifted on healthcare, she recently released a healthcare plan which involves phasing out private insurance over the course of 10 years. In addition, she supports legalizing marijuanna, the Green New Deal, decriminalizing sex work, ending the death penalty, banning assault weapons (through executive order if neccessary), and increasing the salaries of teachers by $13,500 per year. For more information, click here or visit her website.


  • Controversies: Most of Harris’s critics focus on her prosecutorial record. While Harris has used her history as a prosecutor as an asset during her 2020 candidacy, many view it as a vulnerability. Common criticisms include the fact that Harris prosecuted people for using marijuanna, defended the death penalty in court (although she personally opposed it), attempted to keep an innocent man in prison because he filed his paperwork too late, and hid exculpatory evidence from a man on death row. Her office also argued against the early release of prisoners on the basis that doing so would take away prison laborers, but Harris did not support this justification and claimed she was unaware her office made this argument. For more information, click here or here.


Kirsten Gillibrand:

  • Background: Kirsten Gillibrand was born in New York to a family of lawyers. She graduated from Dartmouth College, where she majored in Asian Studies and then attended UCLA Law School. After graduating law school, she worked as a junior associate for Davis Polk & Wardwell. After defending the tobacco company Phillip Morris in civil lawsuits and criminal probes by the Department of Justice, she became a senior associate. She later left Davis Polk & Wardell to become a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner. She also became the leader of the Women’s Leadership Forum, which is a program within the DNC. Check out Gillibrand’s wikipedia page to learn more. 


  • Political History and Accomplishments: After leaving Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Gillibrand worked as Special Counsel to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. She also worked on Hillary Clinton’s Senate Campaign. In 2006, Gillibrand won a seat in the US House of Representatives representing New York’s 20th congressional district. She won re-election in 2008. During her time in the House, she was relatively conservative - she argued that marriage equality should be individually decided by states and she opposed gun control, issuing undocumented immigrants drivers licenses, and providing federal money to sanctuary cities. While in the House, she served on the Committee on Agriculture and Committee on Armed Services. She was appointed by the Governor of New York to fill a vacant seat in the US Senate after Hillary Clinton resigned and later won the special election to maintain her seat in 2010. She also won her subsequent elections in 2012 and 2018. After being elected to the Senate, Gillibrand shifted more to the left - she worked to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, argued for a Latino voice on the Supreme Court, and become a vocal proponent for the #MeToo movement by supporting reforms in Congress and in the military to better address sexual assault. She also helped provide compensation to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack, proposed a bill that would have provided paid family leave, and helped limit insider trading by Congress people. She was also the first Democrat to call for the resignation of Al Franken. She has served on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and the Special Committee on Aging. For more information, click here.


  • 2020 Policies: Some legislation that Gillibrand supports includes the legalization of marijuanna and Medicare for All. She also has proposed strengthening reproductive freedom laws and expanding access to childcare. To learn more about Gillibrand’s plans for 2020, visit her website or click here.

 

  • Controversies: During her campaigns in 2006 and 2008, large contributions from Philip Morris employees to Gillibrand’s campaign were very controversial. She has received criticism from the left for many conservative policies that she has previously supported regarding immigration (i.e. not supporting amnesty and voting to increase funding for ICE), gun control (i.e. her previous A rating from the NRA), and BDS movements (she supported a bill that would make it illegal to “boycott” in opposition to US support of Israel, but later withdrew her support). She has since apologized for her past positions on immigration and takes pride in her current “F” rating from the NRA. For more information, click here.


Marianne Williamson:

  • Background: Marianne Williamson was born in Texas. She attended Pomona College for two years, but dropped out to become a cabaret singer in New York. After moving to Los Angeles, she became an author and activist. She has written 13 books, founded an organization to help people with HIV/AIDS, and supports peace-building projects. For more information, check out her wikipedia page.


  • Political History and Accomplishments: In 2014, Williamson ran for the House of Representatives representing California’s 33rd congressional district as an Independant, but did not win. She is an outsider to Washington and has little political experience. 


  • 2020 Policies: Williamson has called for investments in education and renewable energy, closing private detention centers, protecting asylum seekers, and providing the middle class with tax cuts. While Williamson does have policy proposals available on her website, she has also repeatedly made the argument that Democrats must win 2020 by going beyond policies by focusing on love and unity. 


  • Controversies: Williamson has recently come under scrutiny for her comments regarding clinical depression and antidepressant drugs. She has suggested that Kate Spade died because of antidepressant drugs, argued that drugs are merely a way to “numb” pain, and shared an article by the Church of Scientology on social media. She has since apologized for some of those comments. Click here to watch her exchange with Anderson Cooper on the matter. 


Tulsi Gabbard:

  • Background: Gabbard was born in Tutuila and raised in Hawaii. Her father was involved in state politics. Gabbard enlisted in the National Guard, served in Iraq and Kuwait, and graduated from the Accelerated Officer Candidate School as a distinguished graduate (the first woman to do so). For more information, check out her wikipedia page. 


  • Political History and Accomplishments: In 2002, Gabbard became the youngest person in the Hawaii House of Representatives at only 21. She later served on Honololu’s City Council for two years before becoming a member of the US House of Representatives, representing Hawaii’s second district. This made her the first Hindu and Samoan-American congressperson. While in Congress, Gabbard has focused on veterans and armed service members by making it easier for veterans with disabilities to go through airport security, preventing child abuse on military bases and providing Filipino World War I veterans with medals. She has also introduced legislation to encourage the use of renewable energy and increase election security. During her time in Congress, she served on the Committee on Armed Services, Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Financial Services. She also was the Vice-Chair of the DNC, but stepped down in order to announce her support for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 candidacy. For more information, check out her wikipedia page. 


  • 2020 Policies: One of Gabbard’s core platforms is ending the US’s endless wars in foreign countries. She also supports tuition-free college, Medicare for All, campaign finance reform, and increased taxes on the wealthy. To learn more, click here or here.

  • Controversies: Gabbard worked for her father’s homophobic organization to oppose gay-marriage legislation in Hawaii and referred to activists as “homosexual extremists.” She also used to oppose abortion. Gabbard has since shifted her views on both abortion and LGBTQ rights, apologizing for her previous positsions. More recently, she has also been criticized for supporting extreme vetting for refugees, refusing to call Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a war criminal, and secretly meeting with him. Gabbard says that while Assad has harmed his people, she believes that meetings and negotiations are still important diplomatically. For more information, click here,here, or here

Alexandra Mork