WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has chosen Sen. Kamala Harris of California to join him on the Democratic ticket, fulfilling his pledge to select a female running mate and making Harris the first Black woman ever to appear on a major party ticket.
His campaign announced the pick Tuesday afternoon through its website.
Biden’s selection of Harris, 55, lends racial diversity, gender parity and generational breadth to his campaign. It also represents a strategic decision by the 77-year-old former vice president to keep his ticket firmly within the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party.
“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau,” tweeted Biden, referring to his late son, Beau Biden. “I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”
The selection came despite a monthslong pressure campaign from leftist factions that wanted Biden to pick a progressive star such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and in the final few weeks of the search, concerted lobbying by prominent Democrats on behalf of Rep. Karen Bass of California and former Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
Harris said in her own tweet shortly after Biden’s decision, “Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals. I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.”
Former President Barack Obama complimented his vice president’s choice. “Joe Biden nailed this decision,” Obama said in a statement. “By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character. Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president. They’re requirements of the job. And now Joe has an ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead.”
Following the announcement, Rice complimented Harris in a statement, calling her “a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail.” Bass did the same, saying in a tweet that Harris’ “tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now.”
Harris has a uniquely American biography: Her mother was a widely respected breast cancer researcher who immigrated to the United States from India in the 1960s. Her father, Donald Harris, is an eminent economist who spent much of his career at Stanford University. Also an immigrant, Harris moved to the United States from Jamaica around the time his future wife came from India.
A first-term senator who served as California’s attorney general from 2010-16, Harris has drawn on her personal and professional experience to emerge as a leader in the Senate on racial justice issues.
“We’ve all watched her hold the Trump administration accountable for its corruption, stand up to a Justice Department that’s run amok, and be a powerful voice against their extreme nominations,” said Biden in his announcement Tuesday, touting her experience in the Senate.
“She’s been a leader on criminal justice and marriage equality. And she has focused like a laser on the racial disparities as a result of the coronavirus,” Biden said.
A member of the Judiciary Committee, Harris in 2018 co-sponsored the first-ever bill to make lynching a federal crime. The bill passed the Senate and the House overwhelmingly, but a final version was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Harris was also a co-author this spring of Democrats’ broader police reform legislation, drafted in response to the national uprising that followed the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police in May, and the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT, at her home in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.
Yet Harris, like Biden himself, is considered a moderate Democrat and a pragmatic lawmaker rather than an ideologue. This could complicate incumbent President Donald Trump’s effort to portray Biden as a tool of the “radical left.”
Already on Tuesday there were signs that the Trump campaign has yet to decide how to attack Harris. In a written response to Biden’s announcement, a Trump campaign spokeswoman accused Harris of being both too progressive and not progressive enough, saying Harris attempted to “bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists” yet also claiming her selection was proof that Biden would pursue “the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left.”
In reality, Harris has repeatedly teamed with Republican colleagues to draft legislation during her three years in the Senate.
This includes working on an election security bill with Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the anti-lynching bill with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and a workplace harassment prevention bill with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Harris has even won plaudits from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a staunch Trump ally — albeit one whose personal friendship with Biden goes back some 30 years.
Speaking to radio host Hugh Hewitt about Harris in May, Graham said, “I think she’s the leading candidate [for Biden’s running mate]. I know her. I didn’t like what she did in the Kavanaugh [Supreme Court confirmation] hearings by any stretch of the imagination. But she’s hard-nosed. She’s smart. She’s tough.”
The announcement comes after a four-month selection process that saw at least a dozen prominent women vetted for the position.
The vice presidential selection committee was headed by former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, one of Biden’s oldest friends. Other members included Biden campaign co-chair Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles; Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who represents Biden’s home state of Delaware in the House, and Cynthia Hogan, who served as counsel to Biden in the Senate and later in the Obama administration.
Throughout the process, insiders say, Biden’s top priority has always been to select a vice president he can trust, someone with whom Biden can have the same deep personal relationship he had with President Barack Obama during his eight years as vice president.
Biden’s strategy for choosing a running mate has evolved over the past few months as his lead over Trump in national polls and battleground states has increased.
During the late winter and spring, when Biden was still locked in a primary battle against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., many on his campaign team saw the vice presidential pick primarily as a chance for Biden to name a progressive who could help him unite the establishment arm of the Democratic Party with its left flank.
But as Biden’s lead over Trump grew in the late spring and summer, progressive Democrats coalesced around him.
By early July, instead of needing a vice presidential candidate who could help galvanize support on the left, Biden’s advisors had come to believe he merely needed one who would “do no harm” to his strong standing in the polls.