The California senator has an extensive background as a prosecutor and delivered a stinging attack on Biden during the primary.
Sen. Kamala Harris has faced criticism for her record on criminal justice, and she has been admonished by some as too politically “ambitious. » | Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP Photo
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced that he has selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, fulfilling the hopes of her supporters who have long boosted her as a “dream” addition to an eventual Biden ticket.
But the pick doesn’t come without baggage. The pair’s brutal clash over Biden’s record on race during the first Democratic debate last summer has left some of his key advisers still smarting over what they describe as a lack of remorse for the sharp attack. Harris has also faced criticism for her record on criminal justice, and she has been admonished by some as too politically “ambitious,” a label some have decried as sexist.
Then-Attorney General Kamala Harris hold a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento in July 2012. | Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo
Before she was elected to the Senate in 2016, Harris spent 26 years as a prosecutor in her home state of California, rising through the ranks to become district attorney in San Francisco before being elected state attorney general in 2010.
But her lengthy prosecutorial record is both one of her most prominent credentials and the source of distrust among liberals who scoffed at Harris identifying herself as a “progressive prosecutor.”
Since the campaign, however, Harris has emerged as one of the leading voices in Congress on criminal justice reform, co-authoring Democrats’ sweeping police reform legislation earlier this summer in the wake of national protests over police brutality.
Harris lobbed one of the most forceful attacks of the primary at Biden when she went after his record on school desegregation and busing, as well as his warm words for segregationists in Congress.
In the immediate aftermath of the viral exchange, it appeared to propel Harris to the front of the crowded primary field, though the political boost was ultimately short-lived when Harris acknowledged she had essentially held the same view on busing as he did. The attack also made her the target of backlash from Biden’s allies — and as recently as March, Biden’s wife Jill described the moment as “a punch to the gut.”
But Harris has been a loyal Biden surrogate since she endorsed him back in March, hosting fundraisers and roundtables with the vice president and his wife and defending him on television.
Thinking of @JoeBiden, @DrBiden and the entire Biden family today. Beau Biden was my friend. We were AGs together, and you couldn’t find a person who cared more deeply for his family, the nation he served, and the state of Delaware. Four years after his passing, I still miss him. pic.twitter.com/b7lP3TwxYq
The senator formed a close relationship with Biden’s late son, Beau, when he served as the Delaware attorney general while Harris was attorney general of California. In her 2019 memoir, Harris called Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, an « incredible friend and colleague, » and wrote that she sometimes spoke with the younger Biden as many as multiple times a day in difficult moments.
Biden and his allies have cited Harris’ friendship with Beau as a key reason her debate broadside stung as much as it did.
“I wasn’t prepared for the person coming after me the way she came after me. She knew Beau, she knows me,” Biden told CNN last year.
“Our son, Beau, spoke so highly of her and you know, and how great she was,” Jill Biden said at the same fundraiser where she lamented Harris’ debate blow.
Not long before the debate moment, Harris had marked the fourth anniversary of Beau’s death on Twitter, writing: “I still miss him.”
From left, then-California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George administers the oath of office to then-San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris as her mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, holds a copy of the Bill of Rights. | George Nikitin/AP Photo
Her mother Shyamala was the daughter of an Indian diplomat and worked as a cancer researcher, while Harris’ father Donald was born in Jamaica and taught economics at Stanford. The pair met during civil rights protests at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. They divorced when Harris was 7, and Harris and her sister Maya were raised by their mother, whom the senator has cited as a foundational influence in her life.
Once she arrived in the Senate in 2017, Harris wasted no time raising her national profile, going viral for her grillings of White House appointees from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr, to CIA Director Gina Haspel.
In May, Harris campaign surrogate Bakari Sellers posited that Harris’ elite interrogation skills would be put to good use on a Biden ticket.
“What I would take from that for choosing a vice president is she’s a really skilled debater,” he said of her debate confrontation with Biden, “and she’d kick Mike Pence’s ass.”
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