- The presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has picked Sen. Kamala Harris of California to be his running mate.
- Harris had competed against Biden in the crowded Democratic primary before bowing out in December.
- Before joining the US Senate, she served as the district attorney of San Francisco and as the attorney general of California.
- She will be the first Black woman and the first Indian American woman on a Democratic ticket.
- Take a look inside the life and career of Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s choice for vice president.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Kamala Harris was born in 1964 in Oakland, California, to graduates of the University of California at Berkeley. She has one younger sister, Maya.
Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, immigrated to the US from India, while her father, Donald Harris, immigrated to the US from Jamaica. They met as graduate students at UC Berkeley and divorced when Harris was young.
Kevin Sullivan wrote for The Washington Post that Harris visited India on vacations and that her mother cooked her and Maya Indian food at home.
Both parents brought Harris to civil-rights protests in Berkeley as a young child.
Harris spent a good portion of her childhood in Berkeley, where she attended Thousand Oaks Elementary School. Her family lived in Montreal for a few years before returning to the US.
As a young child, Harris took a bus that transported her to a different neighborhood as part of desegregation efforts.
The goal of busing – transporting students to schools in different neighborhoods – was desegregation.
One of the most memorable moments of the Democratic presidential primary came during a debate when Harris, addressing Biden, said: “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day, and that little girl was me,” before criticizing Biden’s opposition to federally mandated busing in the 1970s.
Biden responded: “I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.”
Nellie Bowles reported for The New York Times that Harris took a bus to a predominantly white neighborhood to attend Thousand Oaks Elementary School starting in 1970 when busing was still in its early years.
Harris attended Howard University and the University of California’s Hastings College of Law.
Harris was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at Howard. She told The Washington Post that she “became an adult” at the school.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Harris’ political identity began to take shape at Howard, a historically Black university.
The ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett tweeted after Biden announced his selection that when he was pledging Alpha Phi Alpha at Howard in 1986, “an ambitious young woman was pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha there that spring” – and was now a vice-presidential nominee.
Harris worked at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in Oakland for eight years, until 1998.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Michael Finnegan reported that she prosecuted murder, rape, assault, and drug cases in her first job after law school, as a deputy district attorney for Alameda County in Oakland.
At about the same time, Harris was dating Willie Brown, then the California State Assembly speaker and the future mayor of San Francisco. The couple ended their relationship before Brown became mayor.
In 2003, Harris told SF Weekly that Brown, and their past relationship, was an “albatross hanging around my neck.”
“His career is over – I will be alive and kicking for the next 40 years,” she said. “I do not owe him a thing.”
Brown responded to Biden’s choice of running mate by saying Harris should decline Biden’s offers to join his ticket.
Harris served as district attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010.
Harris was the first woman to serve as the district attorney of San Francisco and the first Black woman and the first Indian American woman to hold that role.
In 2003, while running for the office, she said she would oppose the death penalty, and she stuck to the campaign promise four months later, when the police officer Isaac Espinoza was fatally shot by a gang member. Other prominent California Democrats including Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer criticized the decision, which Harris defended in an op-ed article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Meagan Flynn reported for The Washington Post, however, that the death penalty was a “complex” part of Harris’ legal career.
During her time as district attorney, she instituted “Back-to-Track,” a reentry program “aimed at reducing recidivism among low-level drug-trafficking defendants.”
The program, meant to last 12 to 18 months, set goals defined by a personal-responsibility program tailored to each person. The program measured parenting, educational, and professional achievements and required several hundred hours of achievement. To graduate from the program, the participants were required to have secured employment, enrolled in school, and met their personalized requirements from the program.
In 2011, Harris became the attorney general of California.
Harris served as the attorney general of California for six years. During that time, she litigated against mortgage companies, for-profit colleges, and human trafficking, securing major settlements for the state.
President Donald Trump donated to two of Harris’ bids for attorney general, The Washington Post’s Matt Viser reported, as did Ivanka Trump.
In her first year as attorney general, Harris supported a law signed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that fined parents of “chronically truant” children several thousand dollars for missing more than 10% of school without a valid excuse. The penalty also included jail time. At the time, Julianne Hing wrote for Color Lines that it was “likely to disproportionately affect communities of color.” Harris apologized for supporting the law in 2019.
In 2015, she upheld the conviction of George Gage, a man serving 70 years in prison over claims he assaulted his stepdaughter. Many spoke out against this, saying that Gage might be innocent and that his conviction might have been based on unreliable testimonies.
In 2018, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof called Harris a “flawed political leader” while discussing the case of Kevin Cooper, a death row inmate convicted of murder. Kristof named Harris and then-Gov. Jerry Brown as lawmakers who didn’t allow “newly available DNA testing,” and he said new DNA evidence might vindicate Cooper.
That same year, Harris said California should allow DNA testing for Cooper’s case.
In the past, civil-rights groups have been critical about how Harris has responded to instances of police shootings, saying she needs to be stricter on excessive force by police officers.
A representative for Harris did not immediately respond to Business Insider.
Harris has been a US senator since 2017 — the second Black woman and first American of South Asian ancestry to hold that office.
Harris serves on multiple Senate committees – the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.
She has often won praise for her prosecutorial lines of questioning during congressional hearings.
In May 2019, her fiery line of questioning during a congressional hearing on the Robert Mueller report made several headlines – specifically her tough treatment of Attorney General William Barr.
She is up for reelection in 2022.
Harris launched a bid for the Democratic nomination for president last year, dropping out in December.
During her run, participants in an Insider poll said they viewed Harris as one of the most progressive candidates in a crowded field of Democrats.
Business Insider’s Eliza Relman previously wrote that her platform expressed support for universal paid leave, better wages for teachers, and a public option for healthcare.
Harris lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Doug Emhoff.
Emhoff, also a lawyer, is an outspoken supporter of his wife.
When Harris announced she was ending her presidential run, he tweeted: “I’ve got you. As always.”
Emhoff is a partner at DLA Piper. According to his company profile, he represents individuals as well as corporations in complex business, real estate, and intellectual-property litigation.
The couple met on a blind date and have been married since 2014. Harris is a stepparent to Emhoff’s two children from a previous marriage.
In an op-ed article for Elle, Harris described her stepchildren as “brilliant, talented, funny kids who have grown to be remarkable adults.”