After a long vetting process, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced today that California’s 55-year-old junior Sen. Kamala Harris is his pick as vice president candidate in November.
“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 mates,” Biden said in a tweet 1:20pm. The Biden campaign said the two will deliver remarks in Delaware soon.
- Democrats hope Harris will use her prosecutorial acumen against Vice President Mike Pence at their only debate on Oct. 7 in Utah.
- Recent polls show Biden with a solid and consistent lead nationally and in key battleground states.
- If she wins in November, Gov. Gavin Newsom would appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Harris’s term until the 2022 election.
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.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 11, 2020
What she did as CA senator:
Supported healthcare reform, federal descheduling of cannabis, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the DREAM Act, a ban on assault weapons, and progressive tax reform.
She gained a national profile for her pointed questioning of Trump administration officials during Senate hearings, including U.S. Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr, and Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
As the Oakland-born child of a Jamaican American father and a mother who emigrated from India, Harris will be the first Black or Asian American woman to run as vice president on a major-party presidential ticket. She will also be the first California Democrat ever to be in that position.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who replaced Harris when she was elected to the U.S. Senate, praised Biden’s choice and said a Biden/Harris win would be good for California.
“And so I think what it means is all the innovation, all those ideas, all that energy, all that forward-leaning motion that California is known for will be there present in the White House. And I think that’s good for everybody. As goes California, so goes the country,” Becerra told KQED.
The Republican response:
Their National Committee greeted news of Harris’ selection with scorn, calling her policies “radical” and “extreme.”
“Kamala Harris’ extreme positions, from raising taxes to abolishing private health insurance to comparing law enforcement officials to the KKK, show that the left-wing mob is controlling Biden’s candidacy,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “These radical policies might be popular among liberals, but they are well outside the mainstream for most Americans.”
Setting aside animosity from the primary campaign where Harris invoked Biden’s opposition to busing school children during the 1970s as a personal affront to her, the former vice president made clear he was holding no grudges.
Given Biden’s age (77), the possibility he will serve only one term if he wins and the leg up Harris would have among Democrats seeking the nomination in 2024, the number two spot on the ticket holds unusually high value this year.
In fact, in becoming Biden’s pick Harris had to overcome doubts about her loyalty and whether her own political ambitions to be president would prevent her from being a trustworthy partner in a Biden administration.
Biden announced he would name a woman as his vice presidential nominee during a Democratic debate earlier this year, and as the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota energized the Black Lives Matter movement and raised the profile of racial injustice as a top national issue, the imperative of naming a woman of color grew.
In addition to strong national name recognition stemming from her unsuccessful presidential campaign and high-profile questioning of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, Harris brings solid fundraising ability, charisma and a compelling personal story to a ticket headed by an elderly white man who just six months ago was written off as politically wounded.
Harris launched her own campaign for president with an impressive rally in her hometown of Oakland in January 2019, just two years after joining the U.S. Senate. Harris was seen as a top-tier contender for the nomination, a former state attorney general whose slogan “Kamala Harris: For the People” was intended to underscore her credentials as “a progressive prosecutor.”
Despite the early promise of her candidacy, Harris stumbled out of the gate, backing off her early support for “Medicare for All” and creating the impression among some voters that she lacked core convictions and was more driven by poll-tested opinions and politically expedient positions on issues of the day.
With her campaign rife with infighting and her fundraising lagging, Harris dropped out of the presidential contest in December of 2019, in time to assure that her name would not appear on the California March primary ballot where she seemed heading for a weak finish.
Her political career:
In 2003, she took on a liberal district attorney in San Francisco. Harris ran as a centrist, to the right of her former boss, incumbent District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who was a champion of liberal causes but despised by law enforcement groups. Harris won support from much of the city’s political establishment, including her mentor, former Mayor Willie Brown, whom she briefly dated in the 1990s.
Harris defeated Hallinan in a runoff, 56% to 44%, in the same election where Gavin Newsom was elected mayor. Harris said she would professionalize the office, with a focus on rehabilitation and preventing crime. Her pledge to never seek the death penalty was immediately put to the test when a San Francisco police officer was shot and killed by a gang member during her first months in office.
True to her word, Harris didn’t seek the death penalty. But the decision, announced before the officer’s funeral, infuriated the city’s police union and generated a public rebuke from Sen. Dianne Feinstein at the memorial service.
Harris was reelected district attorney in 2007, then ran for California attorney general in 2010, narrowly edging out Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican who supported some progressive initiatives such as reforming California’s three-strikes law.
As attorney general, Harris took credit for refusing to join a settlement negotiated by the Obama administration after the mortgage meltdown. Instead, she negotiated California’s own settlement with more than $25 billion in debt relief, although critics said she was too lenient on banks and overstated the amount of relief homeowners would get.
Her 2016 election to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barbara Boxer prompted former “Today Show” host Matt Lauer to call Harris “the female Obama,” a superficial reference to the biracial background she shares with the former president.
Harris quickly rose in the Senate, earning spots on the prestigious Intelligence and Judiciary committees, where her prosecutorial skills were used to mixed effect in her pointed questioning of President Trump’s nominees, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Her assertive style with former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions prompted him to say that her questioning “makes me nervous.”