Biden selects Kamala Harris as Vice President pick — but some Californians are critical of her record

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris at a fundraiser hosted by the Iowa Asian and Latino Coalition at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The campaign for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has announced Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. The decision comes more than a year after Harris, who was also a 2020 Democratic candidate, clashed with Biden over race issues during the first primary debate.  

If elected, she would be the first female, first Black and first Asian American vice president of the United States. Harris is the only Black woman currently serving in the Senate. She was elected in 2016 after serving as the attorney general for the state of California, and before that, the district attorney for San Francisco. She has faced criticism herself for her record as a prosecutor.

“There are some things that I think some folks are still going to hold against her,” says Issac Bryan, Executive Director of Public Policy at the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, and the founding Executive Director of the UCLA Black Policy Project. “She leveraged that office to file for fewer compassionate releases, to not prosecute law enforcement officers who have been accused of misconduct fired from the local agencies, to stay quiet on statewide reform initiatives instead of taking strong and supportive positions.” 

Bryan continues: “She made a number of missteps that I hope she's learned from, especially given the current dialogue about the role of policing in our country … it's fair criticism that all prosecutors in this moment, even the most progressive … are handling in this moment, when you represent a system that has a legacy of harm in the way that it does.”

Bryan says that while he is hopeful about the Biden-Harris ticket, “when it comes to a ‘tough on crime’ narrative, and the pushing back, and the reimagining of public safety that this country is meeting to have right now, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not the two to do it.”

But he also notes that Harris has overseen some monumental changes in policy during her tenure as California’s “top cop,” a moniker she assigned herself

“I think we can look to particularly her handling of immigration issues,” he says. “[She] instructed local municipalities and other law enforcement agencies not to work with immigration authorities.” 

Biden wrote in an email from his campaign to supporters that “[y]ou make a lot of important decisions as president. But the first one is who you select to be your Vice President. I’ve decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation starting in January 2021."