After weeks of growing speculation, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden answered on Tuesday the most highly anticipated question of his campaign, naming California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate.
“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau,” Biden tweeted, referring to his late son. “I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”
The decision propels Harris back onto the national stage after a disappointing end to her own run for the White House, which peaked with a shot at the man she now joins at the top of the Democratic ticket.
If elected in November, Harris would become the first woman and first African American to serve in the role — more firsts in a career full of them.
As a senator, Harris has won praise among her Democratic colleagues for her intense questioning of Trump administration officials like Attorney General William Barr and she is widely seen as someone who can hold her own on the campaign trail and in debates.
Born in Oakland in the fall of 1964 to immigrant parents from India and Jamaica and raised in Berkeley, Harris would go on to become the first African American and first woman to serve as California Attorney General.
In 2017, she became the first South Asian American senator in history and only the second Black woman to serve in the Senate.
“The obvious choice before this whole vetting process began was Kamala Harris and the final choice through all the vetting is Kamala Harris,” said political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. “It’s only the third woman and the first African American woman to be a veep choice. There will be some problems because of her past as a prosecutor but what is the alternative? I think that’s what Biden is gambling on.”
Her nomination could open up a rare vacancy for a Senate seat in California, and Gov. Gavin Newsom would name her successor.
Harris’ selection was by no means a foregone conclusion, although her name began surfacing as a vice presidential contender almost as soon as she ended her own presidential campaign last December.
The junior senator from the Golden State clashed sharply with Biden during a primary debate in June, with Harris criticizing Biden for opposing busing in the past and for comments about finding common ground with avowed segregationists.
“I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris, 55, told Biden in the widely discussed exchange. “But I also believe, and it’s personal — it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
After her parents split when she was young, Harris lived with her mother and sister in a duplex in the flatlands of southwest Berkeley and took a bus to Thousand Oaks Elementary School in a richer, whiter neighborhood — becoming part of the second class desegregated through busing.
Biden allies were reportedly critical of what they viewed as Harris’ lack of remorse for her shot at Biden, but the presidential hopeful recently was photographed while holding handwritten notes about Harris that said “do not hold grudges” and “great respect for her.”
Harris’ selection is seen as risky by some. While she has touted her work helping California homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis and bringing violent transnational gangs to justice, progressive members of the Democratic party have criticized what they see as a tough prosecutorial record and say a Biden-Harris ticket does little to move them to the polls.
After earning an undergraduate degree from Howard University and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings, she launched her career as a prosecutor in the Alameda County district attorney’s office before becoming the San Francisco district attorney and eventually the state’s attorney general. In 2016, she won the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.
And she is viewed by some as too eager for the presidency herself, prompting fear she will not be content to do Biden’s bidding.
But her supporters — the most fervent call themselves the KHive — have batted away that argument as sexist, pointing out it was well known Biden had an interest in being president when he agreed to serve under former President Barack Obama.
Biden committed in March to choosing a woman as his running mate. But Harris is just the third woman to fill that role for the two major parties, following Sarah Palin on the Republican side in 2008 and Geraldine Ferraro on the Democratic side in 1984.
Harris, who now calls Los Angeles home when she’s not in Washington, D.C., married lawyer Douglas Emhoff in 2014. Emhoff’s two grown children, Cole and Ella, call their stepmother “Momala.”
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