Joe Biden has named Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate in the 2020 US elections. Harris, who is Biden’s former Democratic primary opponent, is the first Black woman and the first woman of Asian descent nominated for vice president by a major party. Together, Biden and Harris plan to take back the White House. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Bellini reports on how her life and career brought her to this moment. – Nadya Swart
Kamala Harris named as Joe Biden’s VP
By Tarini Parti and Ken Thomas
Joe Biden named Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate, picking his former Democratic primary opponent to be the first Black woman and the first woman of Asian descent nominated for vice president by a major party.
Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, described Ms. Harris as “one of the country’s finest public servants” in a tweet announcing his decision Tuesday.
“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau,” the former vice president wrote, referring to his late son, Beau Biden, who was Delaware’s attorney general when Ms. Harris held that role in California. “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.”
Mr. Biden’s campaign said the pair would appear together Wednesday in Wilmington, Del., to deliver remarks “on working together to restore the soul of the nation and fight for working families to move the country forward.”
Mr. Biden selected the senator, who had long been seen as a front-runner for the No. 2 spot on the ticket, over a group of potential running mates who included former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Ms. Harris’s selection could play a major role in the Democratic Party’s leadership for years to come. She is well-positioned to succeed the 77-year-old former vice president as the head of the party. If Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris win the November election, she would be the nation’s first woman to serve as vice president.
Mr. Biden offered Ms. Harris a place on the Democratic ticket during a Tuesday afternoon Zoom call from his Wilmington home about 90 minutes before the announcement, according to a campaign official.
Ms. Harris, 55 years old, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, has been a rising star in the Democratic Party since being elected to the Senate in 2016. Given her own presidential campaign, she was better-known than many of the other women under consideration. In addition to an established small-dollar donor list, she has ties to wealthy donors from industries including finance, media and law.
She said in a tweet that she was honored to join Mr. Biden on the party’s ticket. “Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us,” she tweeted. “And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals.”
She gained attention for her tough questioning of Trump administration nominees who came before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her 2018 grilling of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings went viral on social media and drew praise from Democrats. Republicans dismissed it as theatrics, and Justice Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed by a 50-48 vote.
Ms. Harris launched her presidential campaign with a 20,000-person rally in 2019 and frequently brought up the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York, who in 1972 became the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s presidential nomination. A heated exchange with Mr. Biden during a presidential primary debate last year helped draw attention to Mrs. Harris’s bid.
But her campaign struggled to settle on a strategy for where to compete and how to frame her message. She dropped out of the race in early December, roughly two months before voting began.
.@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.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 11, 2020
At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Trump called Ms. Harris “extraordinarily nasty” during confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh, saying she had been “the meanest, most horrible” of all U.S. senators.
“I was a little surprised at the pick,” said Mr. Trump, a Republican, who two weeks ago said Ms. Harris would be “a fine choice” for Mr. Biden.
Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump gave a total of $8,000 to Ms. Harris’s campaign for attorney general between 2011 and 2014, according to state campaign finance records. His campaign didn’t immediately respond to inquiries related to the donations.
Many Democrats quickly rallied behind Ms. Harris’s selection, including some progressives who had backed Ms. Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mr. Biden’s main rival during the presidential primaries.
“As an Indian American and son of immigrants, I am very proud that we see someone like her become the VP nominee for our party,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.), who previously co-chaired Mr. Sanders’s campaign for president.
Rahna Epting, executive director of the progressive organization MoveOn, said that Ms. Harris had emerged in weekly surveys as the top choice for running mate among her group’s members.
“Joe Biden made a powerful choice in Harris: a woman of incredible accomplishment, a fighter for our democracy, and a compassionate and empathetic leader,” she said in a statement.
But some liberals remain skeptical of Ms. Harris’s criminal justice record. While serving as attorney general, Ms. Harris frequently didn’t prosecute police officers accused of using excessive force and didn’t support legislation requiring officers to wear cameras. She also didn’t push for progressive priorities like decriminalizing marijuana as a way to reduce mass incarceration. Ms. Harris personally opposed the death penalty, but she defended California’s capital punishment policy in court.
“The Biden-Harris ticket needs to inspire and motivate these people, and where they hit a roadblock is she’s a former prosecutor who had a less than admirable record as a prosecutor,” said Hawk Newsome, a founder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York.
Mr. Biden, who started his running mate search by promising to pick a woman and weighing about a dozen candidates, had been under pressure from some of his allies to pick a woman of color. Black voters in South Carolina and Super Tuesday states turned the former vice president’s campaign around in the primaries, paving the way for him to secure the Democratic nomination.
Black voters were also a key part of the coalition that helped elect President Obama in 2008 and 2012, but turnout among nonwhite voters declined both nationally and in swing states in the 2016 election, according to Census Bureau data. While Ms. Harris’s home state of California isn’t in play in the general election, her selection could bring enthusiasm to the ticket among Black voters in battleground states in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton suffered from low turnout in cities.
“It gives all African-Americans—and should be all Americans—the kind of impetus that they need to get this man elected,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.) said in a call with reporters Tuesday.
Glynda Carr, president of Higher Heights PAC—which helps elect Black women to office—and one of the women who had urged Mr. Biden to select a Black woman, said she saw Mr. Biden’s decision as a sign that Black women’s investments in politics were seeing a return. “I think it’s a game-changer for American democracy and women’s leadership, particularly Black women’s leadership,” Ms. Carr said.
Ms. Harris’s Democratic primary campaign tried to appeal to both moderates and progressives, confusing voters at times on her positions. She didn’t articulate a clear stance on health care, the top issue for Democratic primary voters, for weeks.
After signing on as a co-sponsor to Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, Ms. Harris backtracked. She eventually released her own proposal that sought to satisfy those who wanted a complete government-provided health system and those who were reluctant to eliminate private insurers.
She also failed during her bid to catch fire with Black voters, who were more drawn to Mr. Biden and wrestled with how to sell her background as a former prosecutor. Ms. Harris said that she had been a progressive prosecutor and that she tried to change the legal system from the inside, but her critics said she didn’t do enough to help minority communities.
Spent some time with @KamalaHarris on the campaign trail with @SHO_TheCircus Not surprised she is @JoeBiden ‘s pick. Smart. Savvy. Tough. And the best laugh in the business. pic.twitter.com/I0hcy3eSQv
— Mark McKinnon (@mmckinnon) August 12, 2020
In recent months, Ms. Harris has used her law-enforcement experience and her family’s civil rights background to position herself as a leading Democratic voice on race and overhauling the criminal justice system in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in police custody.
Mr. Biden has called for a criminal justice overhaul, but he has frustrated some activists by distancing himself from a push among some liberals to take funding away from police departments.
Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden didn’t always align on policy issues during the primary. Ms. Harris took more liberal stances on health care and marijuana legalization, for example, than Mr. Biden. Ms. Harris also said her administration would have used executive orders to push through certain Democratic priorities, while Mr. Biden said he wanted to take a more bipartisan legislative approach.
Still, Mr. Biden said shortly after Ms. Harris exited from the presidential race that he would consider her for his running mate if he won the nomination. They had come into the race with a personal connection through Beau Biden, an important factor to Mr. Biden, who prizes relationships in politics.
The presumptive Democratic nominee said he had no hard feelings over an awkward moment in the primary campaign, when Ms. Harris had a brief surge in the presidential race at his expense.
She criticized him for his position on federally mandated busing, using her own childhood experience to argue he should have supported busing as a means of desegregating schools. Mr. Biden’s allies, including his wife, Jill Biden, were taken aback by Ms. Harris’s attack.
Ms. Harris endorsed Mr. Biden after Super Tuesday, campaigning with him at a rally in Detroit ahead of the Michigan primary. At the event, Mr. Biden said he would be a “bridge” to a future generation of Democratic leaders.
—Eliza Collins and Joshua Jamerson contributed to this article.