Kamala Harris: who is Joe Biden's running mate?

The long-time senator ran against Mr Biden in the primaries but has now been chosen as his running mate

Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Renaissance High School in Detroit. AP
Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Renaissance High School in Detroit. AP

Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, making her the first woman of colour on a presidential ticket.

Here's what you need to know about the woman who could be the next vice president of the United States.

Who is Kamala Harris?

The Californian senator was born in Oakland in October 1964 to immigrant parents, her mother, a cancer researcher from India, and her father, Jamaica.

If elected, she will be the first vice president to have attended a historically black university, in her case Howard University in Washington DC.

The presidential ticket isn't the first time Ms Harris has broken records. She was also the first woman and the first black attorney general in the history of California.

Before serving as attorney general, the 55-year-old Ms Harris was the district attorney in San Francisco. She was elected to the Senate in 2016.

Ms Harris ran against Mr Biden in the Democratic primary, but dropped out early in the race.

What does she stand for?

Ms Harris has been lauded for fighting for progressive change during her career.

Her most successful programme, called "Back on Track," called for non-violent first-time drug offenders to avoid jail by getting a high school diploma.

She also initiated a project for anti-bias training for law enforcement agencies throughout California.

Arguably her biggest achievement in the eyes of civil rights activists was "Open Justice," an online portal that made a wide range of criminal justice data available to the public, including the number of deaths and injuries in police custody.

Many today reject claims that she did not go far enough in pushing for criminal justice reform, arguing she was being judged by unfair standards.

"I am a public defender, I work day and night fighting for justice in San Francisco and the fact is that she did implement very progressive programmes, period, end of story," Niki Solis, who faced Ms Harris many times in court when she was district attorney, told AFP.

What about foreign policy?

Ms Harris is in favour of rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, after Donald Trump's withdrawal from the deal in May 2018. She told the Council on Foreign Relations last year that the US should rejoin the deal “as long as Iran also returned to verifiable compliance".

She also supports ending the war in Afghanistan with a political settlement and has voiced support for a two-state-solution between Israel and Palestine.

She has called Israel “a critical ally and friend".

Any controversies?

Ms Harris has drawn criticism for her past as prosecutor and attorney general in California, including her offices’ attempts to block bids for freedom from men of colour who had been wrongfully convicted of crimes.

She said she worked to thread the needle between law-and-order toughness and a protective instinct for those who needed it.

“For better or worse, Kamala has built her brand around being the top cop,” said Steve Phillips, a San Francisco fund-raiser and host of a podcast called Democracy in Colour who backed Ms Harris’s first campaign for attorney general.

Police brutality has very much been in the news following the death of George Floyd and Ms Harris has also been criticised for failing to intervene in cases involving police violence.

While serving as attorney general in 2016, for example, she opposed a bill to investigate deadly police shootings following the death of a stabbing suspect – shot 21 times by police – that sparked huge protests.

Updated: August 12, 2020 11:12 AM

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