Last week, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his vice-presidential running mate: Senator Kamala Harris of California. You may remember Senator Harris as an early frontrunner in this year’s Democratic primary. Harris is a historic choice, as she is the first woman of color from a major party to ever run for the office of vice president. Here, Election Central takes a closer look at what factors went into this decision, as well as Senator Harris’s background and platform.
Kamala (pronounced “comma-la”) Harris is a current Democratic senator from California. She is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian American mother. Harris served as a prosecutor in the Alameda County and San Francisco district attorney’s offices, and then became the San Francisco district attorney. In 2010 Harris became California’s attorney general. In 2016 she was elected to the U.S. Senate–the second African American women in history to accomplish this. In 2019 Harris challenged for the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite a strong performance in some of the early televised Democratic primary debates, Harris dropped out of the race later in the year as her fundraising and momentum began to decline
Senator Harris is married to Doug Emhoff, a lawyer, and has two stepchildren, Cole and Ella.
Many factors go into a presidential candidate’s choice of running mate. Perhaps the vice presidential choice broadens the overall stance on more political issues. Sometimes a vice president’s home state is a potential bonus in the Electoral College calculations. (That is not likely the case for Harris, however. Her home state of California votes reliably for the Democratic candidate in most recent presidential elections.)
Biden said all along that he planned to choose a woman as a running mate. Biden’s team began their vice presidential search with a list of the names of more than twenty women for consideration. The team then met with every candidate, asking them about their plans and platform, before narrowing the list to eleven women. A group of lawyers then researched the remaining contenders in even greater depth.
Biden’s selection of Harris is interesting for several reasons. It suggests that Biden and his team think that race and gender will play a critical role in the election. They may also have concluded that, as an older white man (At 78, Biden would be the oldest person ever to become president), choosing a much younger person who is also a woman of color as a running mate would energize support for the campaign, and potentially boost turnout among women and people of color, especially in urban centers in critical battleground states (such as Detroit, Michigan), and in communities of color in the South.
Democrats are showing early support of Harris. In fact, after the announcement, the Biden campaign set a new record for online political fundraising: $26 million in 24 hours.