Joe Biden selects California Senator Kamala Harris as running mate

Joe Biden selects California Senator Kamala Harris as running mate
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Joe Biden has named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, making history by selecting the first black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket.

In choosing Ms Harris, Mr Biden is embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the pressures of a national campaign.

The 55-year-old first-term senator is also one of the party’s most prominent figures and quickly became a top contender for the number two spot after her own White House campaign ended.

Ms Harris joins Mr Biden in the 2020 race at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in the US, far more than the toll experienced in other countries.

Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused an economic collapse. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

President Trump’s uneven handling of the crises has given Mr Biden an opening, and he enters the autumn campaign in strong position against the president.

In adding Ms Harris to the ticket, he can point to her relatively centrist record on issues such as healthcare and her background in law enforcement in the nation’s largest state.

Ms Harris’ record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinised during the Democratic primary and turned off some liberals and younger black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of systemic 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.

Mr Biden, who spent eight years as president Barack Obama’s vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House.

He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would centre on two white men in their 70s.

(PA Graphics)

Mr Biden’s search was expansive, including Massachusetts Sen Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Rep Val Demings, whose impeachment prosecution of President Trump won plaudits, California Rep Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response to unrest in her city gained national attention.

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 party lost in the general election.

The vice presidential pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Mr Biden would be 78 when he is inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the presidency.

He is spoken of himself as a transitional figure and has not fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024. If he declines to do so, his running mate would likely become a front-runner for the nomination that year.

Born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Ms Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry programme for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and black person to hold the job, and 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 US Supreme Court.

As her national profile grew, Ms Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings.

In one memorable moment last year, Ms Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether President Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

Ms 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.

But the early promise of her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted scepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a consistent message that resonated with voters.

Facing fundraising problems, Ms Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

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