Kamala Harris's journey from daughter of immigrants to controversial prosecutor – and now the frantic Presidential trail
KAMALA Harris has become the first black woman and Asian-American to appear on a major presidential ticket, after she was chosen as Joe Biden's running mate.
Before she was selected as Biden's choice for Vice President on Tuesday, the 55-year-old California senator made a presidential bid of her own last year.
Harris' selection comes after Biden had pledged he would pick a black woman to be his VP, at a time when the country grappled with Black Lives Matter protesters.
In 2016, Harris became the second black woman in history to be elected to the Senate – and recently she has been a loud supporter of police reform and racial justice.
But the California senator has previously faced criticism on her social justice stance, after defending the Department of Corrections and its effort to prevent transgender inmates from getting gender reassignment surgery.
“I couldn’t fire my clients, and there were unfortunately situations that occurred where my clients took positions that were contrary to my beliefs," she said in 2019.
In an oped from the same year, law professor Lara Bazelon argued Harris was not a "progressive prosecutor," as she claims to be.
"Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors," Bazelon wrote in January 2019.
In rebuttal to the piece, Harris' team said: "Kamala Harris has spent her career fighting for reforms in the criminal justice system and pushing the envelope to keep everyone safer by bringing fairness and accountability."
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, the longstanding civil rights and social justice advocacy group, has worked with Harris on a number of reform issues.
"She has been very resolute," he told the Associated Press. "She has the ability to go toe-to-toe with anybody."
Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, criticized Harris' healthcare stance while she was trying to position herself amongst Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
"She was trying to play the middle a little bit and trying to be all things to all people," Payne said. "[Now] there is a little more of a defined voice. There's more clarity to her public persona."
Harris' background in law enforcement had been seen by some as a barrier, but in recent months, the prosecutor has made a stand.
In the days after George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May, an incident that sparked a national conversation on race, Harris joined protesters in the streets of Washington.
On Capitol Hill, she, along with Senator Cory Booker, an African American who made his own bid for the presidency, became the drivers of the Democratic effort to battle police abuses and led the pushback against an alternative Republican police reform measure, which she blasted as "lip service."
Harris' efforts received important recognition in early August, when Ben Crump, the attorney for Floyd's family, published an opinion article supporting her candidacy.
"The case for me is simple: She's been a change agent at every level of government – local, state, and federal – for 30 years," Crump wrote as the search for Biden's running mate entered a final stage.
Lara Bazelon, who wrote the fierce critique of Harris, also did a U-turn.
"She got a good, hard shove to the left. I really hope she seizes that moment and resists the urge to drift toward safety and the center," Bazelon said.
Harris, who was born in Oakland to two immigrant parents – an Indian-born mother and a Jamaican-born father – managed to see off her competitors in the battle to be Biden's VP.
California congressman Karen Bass; Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan governor; and Susan Rice, former UN ambassador in the Obama administration, were all believed to be in the running for the position.
But Harris had a longstanding relationship with Biden, thanks to her friendship with Biden's late son Beau, who served as Delaware's attorney general and worked with Harris when she held the same position for her state.
"Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau. I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse," Joe Biden wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
"I was proud then, and I'm proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign."
Although Harris had attacked Biden over his long-ago stance on mandatory busing for public school students, she endorsed him in March and has since become a fierce advocate of his candidacy.
Harris has used the time since her campaign exit well, Payne added.
"She realized that one of her vulnerabilities was her background as a prosecutor," he said.
"She did some repair work. She did some fence-mending to get ready for the moment."
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