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Biden picks Kamala Harris as running mate, first Black woman

Del. (AP) — Joe Biden named California Sen. Kamala Harris as his
running mate on Tuesday, making history by selecting the first Black
woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket and
acknowledging the vital role Black voters will play in his bid to defeat
President Donald Trump.

In choosing Harris, Biden is embracing a
former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the unique
rigor of a national campaign. The 55-year-old first-term senator, who
is also of South Asian descent, is one of the party’s most prominent
figures. She quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her
own White House campaign ended.

She will appear with Biden for the first time as his running mate at an event Wednesday near his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

announcing the pick, Biden called Harris a “fearless fighter for the
little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants.” She said
Biden would “unify the American people” and “build an America that lives
up to our ideals.”

Harris joins Biden at a moment of
unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the
lives of more than 160,000 people in the U.S., far more than the toll
experienced in other countries. Business closures and disruptions
resulting from the pandemic have caused severe economic problems.
Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest
racism and police brutality.

Trump’s uneven handling of the crises
has given Biden an opening, and he enters the fall campaign in strong
position against the president. In adding Harris to the ticket, he can
point to her relatively centrist record on issues such as health care
and her background in law enforcement in the nation’s largest state.

The president told reporters on Tuesday he was “a little surprised” that Biden picked Harris,
pointing to their debate stage disputes during the primary. Trump, who
has donated to her previous campaigns, argued she was “about the most
liberal person in the U.S. Senate.”

“I would have thought that Biden would have tried to stay away from that a little bit,” he said.

record as California attorney general and district attorney in San
Francisco was heavily scrutinized during the Democratic primary and
turned away some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of
step on issues of racism in the legal system and police brutality. She
declared herself a “progressive prosecutor” who backs law enforcement

Biden, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s
vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role
in his White House. He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice
president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race
would center on two white men in their 70s.

Biden’s search was
expansive, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading
progressive, Florida Rep. Val Demings, whose impeachment criticism of
Trump won party plaudits, California Rep. Karen Bass, who leads the
Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan
Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response
to unrest in her city garnered national attention.

A woman has
never served as president or vice president in the United States.
Hillary Clinton was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. Two
women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets:
Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008.
Their parties lost in the general election.

The vice presidential
pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Biden would
be 78 when inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the
presidency. He’s spoken of himself as a transitional figure and hasn’t
fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024.

Harris, born in
1964 to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, spent much of her formative
years in Berkeley, California. She has often spoken of the deep bond she shared with her mother, whom she has called her single biggest influence.

won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district
attorney. In that post, she created a reentry program for low-level
drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was
elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and Black
person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure
crisis. She declined to defend the state’s Proposition 8, which banned
same-sex marriage and was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for
her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during
congressional hearings.

Harris launched her presidential campaign
in early 2019 with the slogan “Kamala Harris For the People,” a
reference to her courtroom work. She was one of the highest-profile
contenders in a crowded Democratic primary and attracted 20,000 people
to her first campaign rally in Oakland.

But the early promise of
her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted
skepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a
consistent message that resonated with voters. Facing fundraising
problems, she abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two
months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

standout moment of her presidential campaign came at the expense of
Biden. During a debate, she said Biden made “very hurtful” comments
about his past work with segregationist senators and slammed his
opposition to busing as schools began to integrate in the 1970s.

was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to
integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,”
she said. “And that little girl was me.”

Shaken by the attack, Biden called her comments “a mischaracterization of my position.”

exchange resurfaced recently with a report that one of Biden’s closest
friends and a co-chair of his vice presidential vetting committee,
former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, still harbors concerns about the
debate and that Harris hadn’t expressed regret. The comments attributed
to Dodd and first reported by Politico drew condemnation, especially
from influential Democratic women who said Harris was being held to a
standard that wouldn’t apply to a man running for president.

Biden confidants said Harris’ debate attack did irritate the former
vice president, who had a friendly relationship with her. Harris was
also close with Biden’s late son, Beau, who served as Delaware attorney
general while she held the same post in California.

But Biden and Harris have since returned to a warm relationship.

has empathy, he has a proven track record of leadership and more than
ever before we need a president of the United States who understands who
the people are, sees them where they are, and has a genuine desire to
help and knows how to fight to get us where we need to be,” Harris said
at an event for Biden earlier this summer.

At the same event, she
bluntly assailed Trump, labeling him a “drug pusher” for his promotion
of the unproven and much-questioned malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a
treatment for the coronavirus. After Trump tweeted “when the looting
starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests about the death of
George Floyd, a Black man in police custody, Harris said his remarks
“yet again show what racism looks like.”

Harris has taken a
tougher stand on policing since Floyd’s killing. She co-sponsored
legislation in June that would ban police from using chokeholds and
no-knock warrants, set a national use-of-force standard and create a
national police misconduct registry, among other things. It would also
reform the qualified immunity system that shields officers from

The list in the legislation included practices Harris
did not vocally fight to reform while leading California’s Department of
Justice. And while she now wants independent investigations of police
shootings, she didn’t support a 2015 California bill that would have
required her office to take on such cases.

“We made progress, but clearly we are not at the place yet as a country where we need to be and California is no exception,” she told The Associated Press recently. The national focus on racial injustice now, she said, shows “there’s no reason that we have to continue to wait.”

Ronayne reported from Sacramento, California. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Jill Colvin and Julie Pace contributed from Washington.