VP Candidate Harris Represents a Series of Firsts

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Sen. Kamala Harris makes her first public remarks as the Democratic vice presidential candidate on Wednesday in Wilmington, Del.

Rafu Staff Report

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s announcement Tuesday that California Sen. Kamala Harris will be his running mate is a major development for both African Americans and Asian Pacific Americans.

Among vice presidential nominees of the two major parties, Harris, 55, is the third woman (after Democrat Geraldine Ferraro and Republican Sarah Palin), the first African American and the first Asian Pacific American.

An Oakland native and the daughter of a father from Jamaica (Donald J. Harris) and a mother from India (the late Shyamala Gopalan), Harris is only the second African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate and is one of three Asian Pacific American women currently serving there, along with Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Among the diverse group seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Harris was one of three Asian Pacific Americans along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii (who clashed with Harris during the debates) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. She was also one of three African Americans along with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. After withdrawing from the race, Harris endorsed Biden.

The former vice president announced months ago that his running mate would be a woman, and there was speculation that he would choose an African American or another person of color. Contenders included Duckworth, Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a former presidential candidate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, also a former presidential hopeful, withdrew herself from consideration, saying that Biden should select a woman of color.

Biden, 78, would be the oldest president if elected, and has indicated he would only serve one term. It is believed that Harris could be the next presidential nominee and could be called upon to assume the office sooner if Biden becomes incapacitated.

“Congratulations, Kamala!” Yang tweeted. “You are set to make history — let’s win!!”

Yang told “TMZ Live” that he first met Harris early on in the Democratic primaries and they forged an instant bond on a number of non-political issues they have in common.

“Every person on Joe Biden’s short list was either a friend or someone I deeply respect, but I’m positively delighted that he has selected my friend Kamala Harris to serve as his running mate,” Hirono said in a statement. “I’ve seen Kamala’s intelligence, integrity, and care for others up close during our time together on the Senate Judiciary Committee – where we fought together to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, pushed back on Bill Barr’s assault on the rule of law, and opposed Donald Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

“The contrast between this historic ticket – the first to include a woman of color – and the failed leadership of the Trump-Pence administration couldn’t be clearer. It will be an honor to spend the next 84 days fighting alongside Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to end Donald Trump’s mindlessly cruel and destructive presidency and bring our country together.”

“I look forward to working as hard as I can to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Duckworth tweeted. “Our nation needs a president — and our troops deserve a commander-in-chief — who is competent, effective and has the empathy needed to lead this great, diverse country through these difficult times.

“I’ve never been more confident than I am today that Joe Biden is that leader. I’m all in for the Biden-Harris ticket and hope you will join me in helping ensure that he and Kamala are able to defeat Donald Trump and restore the soul of America this November.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said, “I’m delighted that Sen. Kamala Harris will be the next vice president of our country. She comes to this opportunity very well-qualified and very well-prepared. This is a ticket about the future.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) tweeted, “I am thrilled with Joe Biden’s selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. I can think of no one better than California’s own Kamala Harris to take a new set of values back to the White House. Kamala is a fighter, a leader, and a friend.

“I look forward to campaigning hard for the Biden-Harris ticket all the way to victory in November.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento) said, “Congratulations to my friend and colleague Kamala Harris for being chosen as Joe Biden’s VP candidate. I was honored to have her campaign with me in the past and believe she is an excellent choice to help move our country forward. Let’s go make history!”

“The fact that Democrats picked the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants for VP tells you what we stand for,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara). “Kamala Harris went to Howard and rose up through hard work. She represents a multiracial, multicultural future for America. I’m proud of Joe Biden for this pick.”

“Congrats to Kamala Harris!” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). “From our Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to immigrant rights, I’ve been proud to partner with her. This nomination is historic too — as the first Black and South Asian American woman to run on a major party’s ticket. Let’s get to work electing Biden-Harris!”

“I believe that she’s not only tough and smart and ready to be president, but her unique story is an American story and embodies the American dream,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), whose family came from the same city in India as Harris’ mother, told Fox 32 in Chicago. “Certainly not only do women and people of color take great pride in her selection, but certainly people who are of Indian descent and South Asian descent, such as myself.

“You look at pictures of her family and you can’t but see your own family in them. That’s really a point of pride and hope for all of us.”

“Sen. Harris has been a necessary voice that advocates for the AAPI community,” said Varun Nikore, president of the AAPI Victory Fund. “In April, the senator spoke to our community, alongside Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and MSNBC anchor Richard Lui. In May, Sen. Harris provided remarks at our AAPI Progressive Summit.

“We have already seen since the announcement, AAPIs are overjoyed and energized. We are ecstatic that Vice President Biden selected her to be his running mate and we will continue to mobilize to dump Trump this November!”

Actor and activist George Takei commented, “Biden/Harris will begin to heal our nation. From the devatation of the virus to systemic racism, from the economic collapse to the looming climate crisis, we have chosen two great leaders who will lift us up together, toward a new future, toward a new America.”

Prior to the announcement, Takei warned, “Whether it’s Susan Rice or Kamala Harris or anyone else, HOLD YOUR FIRE, Dems, and be there to help support the VP pick. Trump and his goons will come for her, and we don’t need our own adding fuel to their fires.”

Kamala Harris on election night in 2003 when she won the race for San Francisco district attorney. She served two terms before becoming attorney general of California. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Hokubei Mainichi)

A graduate of Howard University and University of California, Hastings College of the Law, Harris began her career at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and later worked in San Francisco at the District Attorney’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office. In 2003, she was elected district attorney of San Francisco. After serving two terms, she was elected attorney general of California in 2011. In both cases, she was the first woman, the first African American and the first Asian American to hold those positions.

Elected to the Senate in 2016 to succeed Barbara Boxer, after defeating Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana in the Democratic primary, Harris became the first African American and the first Asian American woman to represent California in that chamber. The first Asian American was Republican S.I. Hayakawa, who served from 1977 to 1983.

There is already speculation on who Harris’ successor in the Senate will be if she and Biden win in November. Gov. Gavin Newsom has the power to appoint someone to serve the remainder of her term, which ends in 2022. Some are already urging him to appoint a Latino, which would be a first for California in the Senate.

Names that have come up include Rep. Bass, Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, State Sen. Maria Durazo, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

If Newsom were to focus on statewide office-holders, there are two Asian Pacific Americans: State Treasurer Fiona Ma and State Controller Betty Yee.

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