WASHINGTON - Joe Biden announced on Tuesday his selection for his 2020 presidential running mate – California Sen. Kamala Harris.
The pick fulfills the Democratic presidential contender’s promise to select a woman as his running mate, and puts to rest the sometimes bristly rivalry the pair shared during the early phase of the Democratic primary.
“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau. 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.”
Harris tweeted after Biden’s announcement, saying, “@JoeBiden 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.”
The rivalry between Harris and Biden provided one of the nomination race’s most memorable moments when Harris sharply criticized Biden for his record on racial justice during a debate, calling his positive description of a past working relationship with segregationist statesmen as “hurtful.”
Harris later dialed back the attack, reportedly telling a colleague that the exchange was “just politics.” She dropped out of the race for president in December 2019 and endorsed Biden in March 2020.
Biden made history Tuesday by selecting the first Black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket.
Harris, who is also Indian American, joins 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 U.S., 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.
She is the Democrats’ first female running mate since Walter Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro in the 1984 presidential election. The last time a woman was picked as a vice-presidential candidate was 2008 when Republican John McCain tapped Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Should Biden win the 2020 election, Harris would be the first woman to serve as vice president.
Harris is an Oakland native who graduated from Howard University and received her law degree from the University of California. She cut her teeth in politics as California’s attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 2016.
Harris’ record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinized 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.
As her national profile grew, 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, Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.
Harris has taken a tougher stand on policing since the killing of George Floyd. She co-sponsored legislation in June that would ban police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, set a national use-of-force standard and create a national police misconduct registry, among other things. It would also reform the qualified immunity system that shields officers from liability.
“We made progress, but clearly we are not at the place yet as a country where we need to be and California is no exception,” she told The Associated Press recently. But the national focus on racial injustice now shows “there’s no reason that we have to continue to wait.”
Harris beat out a short list that reportedly included Stacey Abrams, Tammy Baldwin, Karen Bass, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Val Demings, Tammy Duckworth, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Susan Rice, Elizabeth Warren and Gretchen Whitmer.
With the country still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, Biden holds a significant lead over President Donald Trump in most major polls, including an eight-point lead in the most recent FOX News poll.
Biden also leads in battleground states like Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
The Trump campaign issued a statement in response to Biden’s selection of Harris as his running mate, saying in part: “Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received. Clearly, Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party.”
In a Tuesday press conference after the announcement, President Donald Trump said that he was "surprised" that Biden picked Harris as his running mate.
Trump claimed Harris performed poorly in the primaries, while also saying she was "nasty" to now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings.
"She was my number one draft pick and we'll see how she works out," the president said.
Shortly after Biden’s announcement, former President Barack Obama said on Twitter that this was "a good day for our country."
“I’ve known Senator @KamalaHarris for a long time. She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing,” Obama wrote.
Harris and Biden’s former party rivals also weighed in on the vice presidential selection. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted congratulations to Harris, saying she will “make history as our next Vice President. She understands what it takes to stand up for working people, fight for health care for all, and take down the most corrupt administration in history. Let’s get to work and win.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.