U.S. Senator Kamala Harris is now the vice presidential running mate of Joe Biden. She’s also the first woman of color to run for vice president on a major party ticket.
Harris built her political career in California. Born in Oakland, she got her start in public office as the San Francisco district attorney, then California attorney general before winning her Senate seat in 2016.
Much of America got to know her better on the debate stage during her presidential run. During her first debate, she said, “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she was bussed to school everyday. And that little girl was me.”
But Harris’ campaign fizzled. She flip-flopped on health care. Her staff was disorganized. She failed to gain traction.
She has also faced criticism over her record as a prosecutor, especially from the progressive wing of the Democratic party.
Avis Jones DeWeever, senior researcher and policy advisor at Black Women’s Roundtable, says Harris’ experiences in California and Washington D.C. make her an excellent vice presidential candidate.
“She was someone who came into that race with assets that a lot of her other competitors did not have, someone who came into the Senate having already won statewide twice before, someone who has shown herself to be exemplary in the Senate. … From the very beginning, she’s shown herself to be someone who is really about the people, and that’s exactly what we need in the White House,” says DeWeever.
She notes that Harris has received negative media attention as a Black woman. She uses the example of when Harris confronted Biden about race during the first Democratic primary debates.
“I think a lot of that, quite frankly, had a lot of racist and sexist overtones. Like ‘how dare this Black woman say anything to this man?’ … I think she was held to a very different standard from the other candidates.”
DeWeever says that Biden’s selection of Harris as vice president shows his ability to move forward from that tense moment.
“It’s a sign of strength to say that, ‘Hey, this was a formidable foe in the debate realm. She in fact got the better of me in this particular circumstance. But I see that not as something that threatens me. I see that as a quality that I will need to win in November,’” DeWeever says. “So this is someone who is thinking about what do I need to put together the best team possible, not only to win the election in November, but who also is going to be my governing partner to try to fix all of those things who [sic] have been broken over the course of the past four years.”
DeWeever says a vice president is traditionally supposed to be the attack dog, and that Harris has no problem with making poignant, logical, and powerful attacks.
“This is exactly the type of intellect that [Biden] needs on that ticket. It’s exactly the type of energy that he needs on the ticket, because I happen to believe that the base wants a fighter.”
Since her presidential run, Harris has been criticized for her history as district attorney and attorney general. DeWeever says it’s important to understand the history and context of the communities where Harris has worked. But she notes it’s also important for Harris to clear the record.
“One needs to address those things frontally, [and] provide examples of what actually happened and move on from there.”
— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo and Amy Ta, produced by Angie Perrin and Rosalie Atkinson