Joe Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, betting that her ties to the African-American community and self-branding as a “progressive prosecutor” will help propel him to the White House.
Harris, 55, who ran against Biden in the Democratic presidential primaries, becomes the first Black woman and first Asian-American on a major party presidential ticket. Known as an aggressive campaigner, the junior senator from California has won statewide elections in the most populous U.S. state three times. She built her early career as district attorney of San Francisco and later California attorney general.
With her history in law enforcement, Harris could help Biden revamp the U.S. criminal-justice system, which has been under intense scrutiny since nationwide protests after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Her tough stance for police reform in recent months, including co-authoring a Senate bill to ban police chokeholds and take other steps, has helped mute criticism from advocates of her own record as a prosecutor.
“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,” Biden tweeted.
Harris endorsed Biden on March 8, throwing her support behind his candidacy after sharply criticizing him in the Democratic primaries.
“Joe Biden has to win this election,” Harris said in June. “We have two choices, Joe Biden and Donald Trump. We need to elect Joe Biden.”
Harris and Biden had one of the most memorable debate-stage clashes of the primary, when she confronted him over his opposition in the 1970s to a federal mandate for busing to integrate schools, which put him on the same side as segregationist senators. Biden has said he supported desegregating schools, but not the federal mandate.
“That little girl was me,” Harris said in the June debate in Miami, recalling that she and her sister had been bused to a predominantly white school in Northern California, and suggesting that Biden’s position sought to stop that — though the facts were more complicated.
After the debate, it became clear she and Biden agreed on modern desegregation policies.
Harris dropped out of the presidential race in December but remains well-respected in the party. The prospect of Harris as a running mate has been the subject of much speculation given her unique profile as a woman of Jamaican and Indian heritage in a party that is becoming more female and less white.
Harris’s presidential campaign was hamstrung by her struggle to convey clearly what she stood for in an election.
In January 2019, Harris told CNN that she supported eliminating private insurance to achieve Medicare for All. Six months later, she backed away from the Bernie Sanders bill she had co-sponsored and released her own plan that split the difference between a government-run insurance plan and the preservation of a private insurance option.
She also weathered controversy over her record as a prosecutor, drawing criticism over her aggressive prosecution of men of color, some of whom were later exonerated, for serious crimes. Harris responded to that criticism by describing herself as a progressive prosecutor who worked to thread the needle between law-and-order toughness and a protective instinct for those who needed it.
Harris was friends with Biden’s late son, Beau, when the two of them were attorneys general of their respective states.
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