Joe Biden has chosen Kamala Harris—the first-term U.S. senator from California, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, and a former rival for the Democratic nomination for the presidency—to be his running mate on the 2020 ticket. The two will face off against President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on November 3.
Harris is the third woman to be named a presidential running mate on a major party ticket; the others were Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008. But she is the first to have what many believe is a serious shot at the second-highest office in the land. Biden is leading Trump in most of the national polls and in such key battleground states as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Florida, all of which Trump won in 2016. Walter Mondale in ’84 and John McCain in ’08 were both trailing their rivals (Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, respectively) at this stage of the campaign, and the choices of Ferraro and Palin were widely seen as Hail Mary moves to reinvigorate flagging campaigns.
Biden made his announcement on Twitter, tweeting at 4:17 p.m., “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.”
Harris, 55, was elected to the Senate in 2016, winning the race to succeed four-term Senator Barbara Boxer by a large margin against Representative Loretta Sanchez, then a rising Democratic star, and making history as a result: California had never before sent a Black legislator to the Senate, and Harris became only the second Black woman in the nation’s history to be elected to Congress’s upper chamber. (The first was Illinois’s Carol Moseley Braun.) Before that, she was the attorney general of California from 2011 to 2016. For Harris, that Senate win was tempered by the fact that Donald Trump also won his race for the presidency, capturing the Electoral College even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. As Harris recalled in a 2018 Vogue profile, “I sat on our couch. I didn’t share one chip with anyone. I was just like: This. Can’t. Be. Happening.”
Harris’s U.S. Senate win was only one in a series of notable achievements for Biden’s eventual running mate. As Harris memorably noted in the first Democratic presidential debate last June, her Berkeley elementary school class in the 1970s was among the first in the state to integrate. (That pronouncement quickly spurred sales of a campaign T-shirt that read, “That little girl was me.”) Harris was also the first woman elected as San Francisco’s district attorney, defeating a former mentor, Terrence Hallinan, in the 2003 election. She then became the first woman elected California’s attorney general in 2010. Harris is a graduate of Howard University (1986) and the U.C. Hastings College of the Law (1989). She is married to Douglas Emhoff, currently a litigator and partner at DLA Piper Law Firm, where specializes in entertainment and intellectual property law.
Two hours after the announcement was made, Harris posted on Twitter, “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 honoured to join him as our party's nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.”
From the beginning, when roughly a dozen names were floated as being on Biden’s short list, Harris was a front-runner—a US senator that had gone through the crucible of her own race for the presidency, and someone who was widely admired for her tenacious and skilful questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court hearings, whetting Democrats’ appetite for a debate against Mike Pence. But, more recently, word began to filter out of the Biden camp that Harris was “too ambitious” and that she would have her eye on the 2024 race for the White House from Day One. Momentum seemed to build for Rep Karen Bass, of California, who had explicitly stated she had no interest in running for president.
That “too ambitious” narrative become something of a flash point, especially among other women in politics, who accurately pointed out that ambition was rarely seen as a character flaw in their male counterparts. Harris herself addressed it in a livestream for Black Women Lead 2020 two weeks ago, telling conference participants that “there will be a resistance to your ambition.” and she then invoked a variation of a phrase she’s often used to describe the challenges of being one of the first Black women in many positions over her career. “They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been, instead of what can be,” Harris said. “But don't you let that burden you.”
That Biden chose a Black woman to be his running mate—the first to be on a national ticket of a major party—was immediately hailed by his followers, even those who had said earlier that they would enthusiastically support anyone on the ticket. On MSNBC, the former Congresswoman Donna Edwards said that “I was one of those who said it didn't matter” if Biden chose a Black woman or not. But she added that when she heard the news, as a Black woman herself, “I realised that it matters an awful lot."
Two of the other women on Biden's very public short list, Susan E Rice and Val Demings, quickly offered their congratulations. “Senator Harris is a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail,” Rice, the former National Security Advisor to Barack Obama, wrote. “I am confident that Biden-Harris will prove to be a winning ticket.” Said Rep Demings (D-Fla), “To see a Black woman nominated for the first time reaffirms my faith that in America, there is a place for every person to succeed no matter who they are or where they come from."
Of course, not everyone greeted the news with praise. At his press briefing late Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he was surprised that Biden picked Harris, given their earlier jousting on the debate stage, “She was very disrespectful to Joe Biden," Trump said. "It's hard to pick someone that was that disrespectful.”
The Biden campaign announced late Tuesday afternoon that the former vice president and Harris will appear together on Wednesday in his home state of Delaware.
This article originally appeared on Vogue.com