CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden announced California Sen. Kamala Harris would be his long-awaited pick for Vice President in August. Harris is set to take the stage against Vice President Mike Pence in Utah Wednesday night for the first and only vice presidential debate ahead of next month’s election.
But who is she? Here are some fast facts and more background about the California senator who could be America’s next Vice President.
🔴 Harris is the first Black and Asian American woman to be on a major party ticket.
🔴 If elected, Harris would be the United State’s first female, first Black and first Asian American VP.
🔴 Harris was the first South Asian American and second Black woman to serve in the Senate.
Harris was born Oct. 20, 1964 in Oakland, CA to Donald and Shyamala Harris. Donald Harris emigrated from Jamaica in the 1960s and worked as a professor of economics at Stanford University. Shyamala Gopalan Harris emigrated from India and was a physician and civil rights activist. She died in 2009.
Harris has one younger sibling, Maya. Harris attended Howard University for her bachelor’s degree then attended law school at University of California – Hastings. She was admitted to the California state Bar in June 1990.
Harris was the Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, CA from 1990-1998. She then was the San Francisco Assistant District Attorney from 1998-2000 and then the City Hall Attorney from 2000-2004.
Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry program for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy. Harris served from 2004-2011.
Harris was elected as California’s attorney general and served from 2011-2017. She was the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to become attorney general of California. During her time in office she 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 U.S. Supreme Court.
Harris’s record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinized during the Democratic primary and turned away some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of 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.
Harris is currently the junior U.S. senator from California. She was elected in 2016. She serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental affairs committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Judiciary and the Committee on the Budget. Harris 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 is the first South Asian-American and second Black woman to serve in the Senate.
Harris married Douglas Emhoff, a partner at law firm DLA Piper in 2014. She has two stepchildren.
Harris announced her campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination Jan. 21, 2019. 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. She suspended her campaign on Dec. 3, 2019.
One of Harris’ standout moments of her presidential campaign came at the expense of Biden. During a debate, Harris said Biden made “very hurtful” comments about his past work with segregationist senators and criticized his opposition to busing as schools began to integrate in the 1970s.
“There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”
Biden at the time called her comments “a mischaracterization of my position.”
Harris later endorsed Biden for president on March 8, 2020.
“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.
Harris has taken a tougher stand on policing since George Floyd’s killing in May. 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.
The list included practices Harris did not vocally fight to reform while leading California’s Department of Justice. Although she required DOJ officers to wear body cameras, she did not support legislation mandating it statewide. And while she now wants independent investigations of police shootings, she didn’t support a 2015 California bill that would have required her office to take on such cases.
“We made progress, but clearly we are not at the place yet as a country where we need to be and California is no exception,” she told The Associated Press recently. But the national focus on racial injustice now shows “there’s no reason that we have to continue to wait.”
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 parties lost in the general election.
Some of Harris’s policy positions:
- Harris unveiled a Medicare for All plan that would give Americans a choice between a private Medicare for All plan and public plan.
- Harris proposed executive actions to curb gun violence, including closing the “boyfriend loophole” that would prevent dating partners convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns.
- Harris released a climate equity plan with NY Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that would consider the impact of new climate policies on low-income communities.
- Harris currently serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She supports cutting defense spending and promised to implement a withdrawal plan for the war in Afghanistan.
- In the July 31, 2019 Democratic debate, Harris said the following on her stance on marijuana: “That I am an advocate for what we need to do to not only decriminalize, but legalize marijuana in the United States.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.