Sen. Kamala Harris will be the first Black woman to be a major party nominee for vice president, joining former Vice President Joe Biden on the 2020 Democratic ticket.
The Democrat from Oakland, California, who was a contender for the presidential nomination herself, was among the favorites to be selected as Biden’s vice presidential running mate.
The Biden campaign announced the news Tuesday afternoon, calling Harris “a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants.”
The daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Harris will also be the first Asian American on a major party presidential ticket.
Much has been made of a primary debate confrontation between Biden and Harris in which she criticized his civil rights record, but Biden said last week that Harris was still very much in contention for the nod.
“I don’t hold grudges, and I’ve made it really clear that I don’t hold grudges. I think it was a debate. It’s as simple as that,” he said in an interview for the virtual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. As vice president, Biden swore Harris into office in January 2017, shortly before he left office himself.
Harris, who was born in Oakland and grew up in Berkeley, was among the first generation of elementary school students to be part of a busing program designed to help integrate local schools.
As a former state attorney general and as a senator, much of Harris’ work has been legal and security focused, including as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where she participated in the committee’s inquiry into Russian interference efforts in the last presidential election. She also likely has more direct knowledge even than many other senators of the U.S. intelligence regarding efforts by foreign actors to undermine the 2020 general election.
Like other lawmakers, Harris has focused much of her official business lately on COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, leading or signing on to a number of legislative proposals. Perhaps most notably, Harris joined with Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, to introduce a $2,000-per-month rebate to everyone residing in the United States for the duration of the pandemic.
“The CARES Act gave Americans an important one-time payment, but it’s clear that wasn’t nearly enough to meet the needs of this historic crisis,” Harris said in a statement introducing the bill. “Bills will continue to come in every single month during the pandemic and so should help from government.”
The former prosecutor has had several high-profile moments questioning witnesses at the Judiciary Committee in her Senate career, including a heated exchange with Attorney General William Barr over the Justice Department’s determination that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not find sufficient evidence of obstruction of justice by the president.
Two years into her first term as a senator, Harris gained further national prominence when she launched her 2020 presidential bid on the campus of her alma mater Howard University. While she was viewed as an early contender, she was back to her day job in the Senate by early December in 2019 after failing to attract adequate fundraising or polling support in the Democratic presidential race.
Harris has known many firsts.
She has been a county district attorney; the district attorney for San Francisco — the first woman and first Black person elected to the position. She was also the first woman, the first female African American and first Asian American to become California’s attorney general.
Harris became the second Black woman to join the Senate, after winning the California seat vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer, who retired after 24 years. She was also the second female Asian American senator, alongside Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth.
After her early life in California, she moved to Canada after her parents divorced.
She spent her high school years living in the province of Quebec — her mother was teaching at McGill University in Montreal. Her first foray into politics came through the legal track. In 2010, she was elected California’s attorney general. She was reelected in 2014.
Two years later, she ran for the California Senate seat being vacated by Boxer’s retirement. In the election, Harris bested her Democratic rival Loretta Sanchez with 62 percent of the vote.