Kamala Harris, born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, is the first Black woman and also the first Asian-American on a major US presidential ticket.

Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and US Senator Kamala Harris hold hands during a campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan, US, March 9, 2020.
Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and US Senator Kamala Harris hold hands during a campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan, US, March 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Joe Biden named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, making history by selecting the first Black  woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket and acknowledging the vital role Black voters will play in his bid to defeat President Donald Trump.

The presumptive Democratic nominee tweeted his decision Tuesday and in a text message to supporters said, “Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”

Trump, however, in his reaction, called Harris the "most horrible" member of the US Senate and said he was "surprised" Biden had picked her.

Harris will be confirmed as Biden's running mate at the Democratic convention that begins on Monday, where Biden will also be formally nominated to challenge Trump. The two Democrats will deliver remarks on Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware as they kick off their campaign.

In choosing Harris, Biden is embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the unique rigour of a national campaign. Harris, a 55-year-old first-term senator, is also one of the party’s most prominent figures and quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her own White House campaign ended.

Harris joins Biden in the 2020 race at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in the US, far more than the toll experienced in other countries. 

Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused an economic collapse. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

Trump’s uneven handling of the crises has given Biden an opening, and he enters the fall campaign in strong position against the president. In adding Harris to the ticket, he can point to her relatively centrist record on issues such as health care and her background in law enforcement in the nation’s largest state.

Harris’ record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinised during the Democratic primary and turned off some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of systemic racism in the legal system and police brutality. 

She tried to strike a balance on these issues, declaring herself a “progressive prosecutor” who backs law enforcement reforms.

Women contenders 

Biden, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House. He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would centre on two white men in their 70s.

READ MORE: Biden commits to female running mate if he is Democratic nominee 

Biden’s search was expansive, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Representative Val Demings, whose impeachment prosecution of Trump won plaudits, California Representative Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response to unrest in her city garnered national attention. 

Biden also considered Asian-American Senator Tammy Duckworth and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Latina.

Rice and Bass congratulated Harris on her selection on Twitter shortly after the announcement. 

A woman has never served as president or vice president in the United States. Two women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their party lost in the general election.

The vice presidential pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Biden would be 78 when he’s inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the presidency. He’s spoken of himself as a transitional figure and hasn’t fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024. If he declines to do so, his running mate would likely become a front-runner for the nomination that year.

“Kamala Harris For the People”

Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney, the first woman to serve in that role and where she created a reentry program for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and Black person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure crisis. She declined to defend the state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and was later overturned by the US Supreme Court.

Career

As her national profile grew, Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings. 

In one memorable moment last year, Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

Harris launched her presidential campaign in early 2019 with the slogan “Kamala Harris For the People,” a reference to her courtroom work. She was one of the highest-profile contenders in a crowded Democratic primary and attracted 20,000 people to her first campaign rally in Oakland.

But the early promise of her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted skepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a consistent message that resonated with voters. Facing fundraising problems, Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

READ MORE: US Senator Kamala Harris ends presidential bid 

Harris has taken a tougher stand on policing since Floyd’s killing. She co-sponsored legislation in June that would ban police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, set a national use-of-force standard and create a national police misconduct registry, among other things. It would also reform the qualified immunity system that shields officers from liability.

She also since then endorsed Biden for the Democratic role. “Joe has empathy, he has a proven track record of leadership and more than ever before we need a president of the United States who understands who the people are, sees them where they are, and has a genuine desire to help and knows how to fight to get us where we need to be,” Harris said at an event for Biden earlier this summer.

READ MORE: How Kamala Harris built her political identity

Source: TRTWorld and agencies