Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has named Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate – the first black woman and Asian American in the role. After months of speculation and a seemingly endless cast of candidates through the revolving door, rhe former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, has announced that his running mate will be the US senator from California.
Harris, 55, becomes the first Black woman on a major presidential ticket in U.S. history and providing him with a partner well suited to go on the attack against Republican President Donald Trump. Harris, a former prosecutor and state attorney general in California, is well known for her sometimes aggressive questioning style in the Senate, most notably of Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden said on Twitter.
With social unrest over racial injustice and police brutality against Black Americans rocking the country for months, Biden had been under increasing pressure to select a woman of color as his running mate. Harris is also the first Asian-American on a major presidential ticket.
In Harris, a senator from California who made her own run for the White House before ending it and endorsing Biden, he gains a deeply experienced politician already battle-tested by the rigors of the 2020 presidential campaign as they head into the final stretch of the Nov. 3 election.
Harris, who became only the Senate’s second Black woman in its history when she was elected in 2016, will be relied on to help drive the African-American vote – the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency. Four years ago, the first dip in Black voter turnout in 20 years contributed to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s upset loss to Trump. Biden served as vice president for eight years under President Barack Obama, the first Black U.S. president.
As a presidential candidate, she also took Biden to task in a nationally televised debate over his past stances on mandatory busing for students as a means to desegregate schools. Some Biden advisers have told Reuters the attacks made them question whether she would be a trusted working partner because of her political ambitions.
While that exchange failed to boost her White House hopes, the Biden campaign will now look for her to train her prosecutorial fire on Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Harris is scheduled to debate Pence on Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The choice of a running mate has added significance for Biden, who will turn 78 in November and be the oldest person to become president if he is elected. Biden’s age also has led to broad speculation he will serve only one term, making Harris a potential top contender for the nomination in 2024. Some of his allies were concerned that would make her a bad fit for the No.2 job and questioned her loyalty.
Biden publicly committed to choosing a woman as his No. 2 in a March debate after discussing the matter with his wife Jill and had considered other former presidential rivals such as Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.
Harris has become a key ally for Biden at a time when race has been thrust to the forefront of the campaign. Her defenders say she has always been reform-minded – and point to her record in the Senate, where she has championed a police-reform bill and an anti-lynching bill, among other measures. Harris herself has said she became a prosecutor in order to bring a more progressive approach to the office.
The daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, Harris has knocked down barriers throughout her career. She was the first woman to serve as San Francisco’s district attorney, elected to that office in 2003, and the first woman to serve as California’s attorney general, elected to that office in 2010.
Biden considered several Black women in addition to Harris, including former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and U.S. Representative Val Demings, a former police chief in Orlando, Florida. Biden also considered Asian-American Senator Tammy Duckworth and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Latina.
Historically, the vice presidential nominee has been the one to take the lead in criticizing the opposing ticket, although Trump has largely shredded that tradition. Brian Brokaw, a California political consultant who managed Harris’ campaigns for attorney general and Senate, said Harris fits that role well. “She is someone who can really make Republicans quake in their boots,” Brokaw said.
A woman of color has never been appointed to a presidential ticket by either of the two main American political parties. No woman has won the US presidency either. Only two other women have been nominated as vice-presidential candidates – Sarah Palin by the Republican party in 2008 and Geraldine Ferraro by the Democrats in 1984. Neither made it to the White House.
Former US President Barack Obama – whom Mr Biden served as vice-president for eight years – tweeted: “She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. “This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”
Harris will debate Trump’s running mate, Vice-President Mike Pence, on October 7th in Salt Lake City, Utah. Harris will be confirmed as Biden’s running mate at the Democratic convention that begins on Monday, August 17th, where Biden will also be formally nominated to challenge Trump.
It’s Harris’s potential ability to get moderates, independents and even some in the center-right, to cross over and vote for Biden. On some important issues to moderates, she’s resisted the urge to move to the far left. While she initially stumbled toward the right answer, she eventually got there on abolishing private health insurance, saying her health plan wouldn’t go that far.
She’s also said she wants to reorder Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but not abolish it entirely, another issue that matters to some moderates.
She’s stopped short of saying we should defund the police, instead saying we should reimagine the way we allocate our funds to communities. On guns, another polarizing issue, Harris would ban imports of so-called assault weapons, but has not said the ban would extend to existing ones.
Harris came out aggressively against Trump’s tariffs and trade war with China, policies that a wide swath of voters, including independents, disapprove of. To be sure, there’s plenty in Harris’s record for staunch conservatives to be squeamish about — she voted against a bill that would limit abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, to name just one thing.
The California Democrat was born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents: an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father. After her parent’s divorce, Harris was raised primarily by her Hindu single mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist.
She grew up engaged with her Indian heritage, joining her mother on visits to India, but Harris has said that her mother adopted Oakland’s black culture, immersing her two daughters – Kamala and her younger sister Maya – within it. “My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters,” she wrote in her autobiography The Truths We Hold. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.”
Senator Harris’ early years also included a brief period in Canada. When Ms Gopalan Harris took a job teaching at McGill University, Ms Harris and her younger sister Maya went with her, attending school in Montreal for five years.
She attended college in the US, spending four years at Howard University, one of the nation’s preeminent historically black colleges and universities, which she has described as among the most formative experiences of her life. Harris says she’s always been comfortable with her identity and simply describes herself as “an American”.
In 2019, she told the Washington Post that politicians should not have to fit into compartments because of their color or background. “My point was: I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it,” she said. After four years at Howard, Harris went on to earn her law degree at the University of California, Hastings, and began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
She became the district attorney – the top prosecutor – for San Francisco in 2003, before being elected the first woman and the first black person to serve as California’s attorney general, the top lawyer and law enforcement official in America’s most populous state.
In her nearly two terms in office as attorney general, Ms Harris gained a reputation as one of the Democratic party’s rising stars, using this momentum to propel her election as California’s junior US senator in 2017.
Since her election to the US Senate, the former prosecutor gained favour among progressives for her acerbic questioning of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr in key Senate hearings.
When she launched her candidacy for president to a crowd of more than 20,000 in Oakland, California, at the beginning of last year, her 2020 bid was met with initial enthusiasm. But the senator failed to articulate a clear rationale for her campaign, and gave muddled answers to questions in key policy areas like healthcare.
Harris has often said that her identity makes her uniquely suited to represent those on the margins. Now that Biden has named her as his running mate, she might get a chance to do just that from inside the White House.