Amy Klobuchar says she is dropping out of the running to be US vice president and urging presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to select a woman of colour instead.
The white Minnesota senator, who had seen her prospects fall as racial tensions swept the nation, said that she called Mr Biden on Wednesday night and made the suggestion. Mr Biden has committed to choosing a woman as his running mate.
“I think this is a moment to put a woman of colour on that ticket," Ms Klobuchar told the MSNBC channel on Thursday. “If you want to heal this nation right now – my party, yes, but our nation – this is sure a hell of a way to do it.”
Mr Biden praised Klobuchar in a tweet Thursday, citing her “grit and determination” and saying, "With your help, we’re going to beat Donald Trump.”
Ms Klobuchar's chances of getting as Mr Biden's running mate diminished after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. She was a prosecutor years ago in the county that includes Minneapolis, and during that period, more than two dozen people — mostly minorities — died during encounters with police.
Floyd’s death last month set off protests across the country and criticism that as the county’s top prosecutor, Ms Klobuchar did not charge any of the officers involved in citizen deaths. Officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with Floyd’s murder, had been involved in one of those cases, the fatal 2006 shooting of a man accused of stabbing people and aiming a shotgun at police.
Ms Klobuchar, 60, was among a large field of Democrats who had sought the 2020 presidential nomination, running as a pragmatic Midwesterner who has passed more than 100 bills. She dropped out and threw her support behind Mr Biden before the crucial March 3 “Super Tuesday” contests after struggling to win support from black voters, who are crucial to Democratic victories. Her best finish of the primary was in overwhelmingly white New Hampshire, where she came in third.
The third-term senator had to cancel one of the final rallies of her campaign after Black Lives Matter and other activists took the stage in Minnesota to protest against her handling of a murder case when she was prosecutor that sent a black teenager to prison for life.
James Clyburn of South Carolina, a close Biden ally and highest-ranking black member of the US Congress, said in the days after Floyd’s death that he believed it made Ms Klobuchar a less likely pick for vice president, even though she was “absolutely” qualified for the job.
“This is very tough timing for her,” Mr Clyburn said.
Even before Floyd’s death, activists were pushing Mr Biden to consider a woman of colour, saying it would help build a multiracial coalition behind the Democratic ticket and motivate people — particularly younger voters — who might be underwhelmed by the 77-year-old former vice president’s bid. The founder of She the People, a network of women of colour, called news that Mr Biden had asked Ms Klobuchar to undergo formal vetting “a dangerous and reckless choice”.
“To choose Klobuchar as vice president risks losing the very base the Democrats need to win, most centrally women of colour, and could be a fatal blow to the Democrats’ chance to win the White House,” Aimee Allison said in May.
Others wanted Mr Biden to choose a more progressive candidate, who could bring in support from voters who backed Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the primary. Like Mr Biden, Ms Klobuchar disagreed with Mr Sanders and Ms Warren on major issues such as health care, calling “Medicare for All” unachievable and pushing instead for changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats with knowledge of the process told The Associated Press last week that Mr Biden’s search committee had narrowed the choices to as few as six serious contenders after initial interviews. Among the group still in contention are Ms Warren, California Senator Kamala Harris and Susan Rice, who served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. Ms Warren is white; both Ms Harris and Ms Rice are black.
Mr Biden has said he will announce his choice of vice presidential candidate by August 1.