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Who is Kamala Harris, the new US vice-president?

After the victory was announced for Joe Biden over Donald Trump to take charge in the White House, interest grew again in history-maker, Kamala Harris.


With Joe Biden's victory called, Kamala Harris made history in the United States after becoming the first woman, and a woman of colour, to be elected as vice-president-elect of the United States.

Kamala Harris added to the Biden ticket

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked Kamala Harris - a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants - as my running mate,” said Biden via Twitter in early August, noting the Democrat's great work.

“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.”

After Biden’s announcement, Ms Harris tweeted that he "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,” she said.

Those exchanges now feel like a lifetime ago.

Who is Kamala Harris?

Harris, a former Democratic rival for the candidacy who then put her weight behind Biden, was called onto the ticket on 11 August, in a nod to the country's most progressive voters. Biden had said previously that he wanted a woman on the ticket. She dropped out of the race last December after a campaign hurt by her wavering views on healthcare and indecision about embracing her past as a prosecutor. She has since proven to be a valuable and polished stand-in, appealing especially to women, progressives and voters of color, all critical to the party’s election hopes.

She was born and raised in Oakland, California, where she embraced African-American culture from an early age, largely because of her Indian mother, who, in addition to being a breast cancer researcher, had also been a prominent civil rights activist. However, Harris did not want to follow in her mother's footsteps. She had other ideas.

Of Indo-Jamaican descent, Kamala, 56, had positioned herself as one of the most powerful women on the current political scene. With Biden's victory in the presidential elections, Harris will become the first female in the country's history to assume the position of vice-president.

Her Indian mother and Jamaican fathermet at a civil rights demonstration, making a very decent case for the famed ’American Dream'. Kamala and Maya, her sister, also grew up going to these demonstrations which led them to learn a lot about the situation in the country.

However, this is not the first glass ceiling that the Democrat has broken. In 2011 she was the first female Attorney General of California, and years later she became the second black woman in the Senate, a job she still performs representing the state of California.

Harris, 56, is widely seen as an obvious candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in 2024 should Biden, who will be 78 at their inauguration on Jan. 20, decide not to seek a second term. She hasn't weighed in publicly on such speculation.

Her background in criminal justice could help a Biden administration tackle the issues of racial equality and policing after the country was swept by protests this year. She is expected to be a top adviser on judicial nominations.

Harris, who developed a deep fundraising network during her Senate and White House bids, has been instrumental to Biden's raking in record sums of money in the closing months of the campaign. Her selection sparked a burst of excitement in the Democratic base and among the party’s donors.

"Harris always made the most sense as a running mate for Biden because she had the ability to help him unify the Democratic coalition across racial and generational lines and was able to spike base enthusiasm," said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Celebrations | A supporter holds balloons with the faces of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
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Celebrations | A supporter holds balloons with the faces of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.KEVIN LAMARQUEREUTERS

Harris the team player

Accusations from progressives that Harris did not do enough to investigate police shootings and wrongful conviction cases when she was California's attorney general helped doom her own presidential run but surfaced little during her time as Biden’s running mate.

Harris has often defended her record, saying as she did in a town hall event last year that she had worked her whole career "to reform the criminal justice system with the understanding that it is deeply flawed and in need of repair."

Trump and his re-election campaign had sought to paint Harris instead as a tool of the Democratic left who would wield power and influence behind the scenes in a Biden presidency.

Prior to her selection, several Biden aides say that Harris was able to put to rest concerns among some in the former vice president's camp that she would be too personally ambitious to make a trustworthy partner.

Harris has shown herself to be a team player, taking on a lower-profile role and holding virtual and in-person political events that sometimes drew little news coverage, while often speaking in terms of what Biden would do for the country if elected and making an impassioned case against Trump.

“Joe and I were raised in a very similar way,” Harris said of Biden at her October debate against Vice President Mike Pence. “We were raised with values that are about hard work, about the value and the dignity of public service and about the importance of fighting for the dignity of all people.”

Harris the multi-tasker

Harris juggled her running mate duties with her day job in the Senate. Befitting her background as a prosecutor, she was a deft cross-examiner of US Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at Barrett's Senate confirmation hearing in October, weaving Biden’s campaign message on healthcare and climate change into her line of questioning.

As the Senate’s only Black woman, Harris emerged this year as a leading voice on racial justice and police reform after Minneapolis police killed African-American man George Floyd in May. She marched with protesters on the streets of Washington and won over some liberal skeptics.

Asked on "60 Minutes" last month why, given Biden's age, he believed Harris would be ready to step into the presidency if something happened to him, the presidential candidate rapidly fired off five reasons.

"Number one, her values. Number two, she is smart as a devil, and number three, she has a backbone like a ramrod.

Number four, she is really principled. And number five, she has had significant experience in the largest state in the Union in running the justice department that’s only second in size to the United States Justice Department. And obviously, I hope that never becomes a question," he said.

Harris is married to attorney Douglas Emhoff, who has been a fixture on the campaign trail. His two children from a previous marriage refer to their stepmother as "Momala."


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