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Who is Kamala Harris?

·4-min read
Who is Kamala Harris? Source: Getty
Who is Kamala Harris? Source: Getty

Former Vice President and US Presidential candidate Joe Biden has chosen Californian Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for the 2020 election.

“I have the great honour to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris - a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants - as my running mate,” Biden tweeted on Tuesday (local time).

“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau [Biden]. 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.”

But who is the could-be Vice President of the United States?

Harris was sworn in as the Senator for California back in 2017, and was the second African-American - and first South Asian-American - senator in history.

She’s now the first African-American woman to be named on a national political ticket by a major party, and the first South Asian-American vice-presidential nominee in history.

But prior to becoming Senator, 55-year-old Harris was the first Black woman to be elected district attorney in California history and the first woman to be California’s attorney general.

She won the ballot for this position by just 0.8 percentage points.

During her two terms in office, Harris won a US$25 billion settlement for Californian homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis, helped win marriage equality for all Californians and protected the Affordable Care Act.

Is Kamala Harris progressive?

Critics of Harris believed she did not do enough as attorney general to advance the rights of defendants or protect those in low-income communities.

“The concerns are overblown, yes, no question,” she said of the controversy in a CBS interview.

"When I became a prosecutor and when I was elected district attorney and also attorney general of California, I implemented some of the most significant reforms to date during those years that had been implemented," Harris said.

"I created one of the first reentry initiatives. It became a model. It was designated as a model in the United States for what law enforcement should do to be as I call it, 'smart on crime.'"

But a 2019 New York Times op-ed by law professor Lara Bazelon claimed Harris’ achievements, and indeed Harris herself, were not progressive.

“Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent,” Bazelon said.

“Most troubling, Ms. 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.”

Given the current climate and sentiment towards police in the United States, this will no doubt be a point of contention as she embarks as Biden’s running mate.

What are Kamala Harris’ policies?

Harris initially ran for presidency, but her backflipping on policies eventually forced her to bow out early.

Her prosecutorial record saw her labelled a “cop” during her candidacy, and her record of fighting to keep people in prisons despite evidence of wrongful conviction did her no favours.

She is, however, a lifelong opponent of the death penalty.

She also shifted her position on ‘Medicare for All’, initially calling it “the right thing to do”, but later backtracked on her comments.

Now, she supports closing the inequality gap, and has called for new investments to address the nation’s maternal mortality crisis.

In 2018, she heavily opposed Trump’s administration policy of separating children at the border, and advocated for using executive powers to reinstate and expand the Deferred action for Childhood Arrivals program.

How do I pronounce Kamala Harris’ name?

Harris has been called Camilla, Carmela and even Kah-mah-la.

To clear up confusion, she posted a video to her Twitter account during her 2016 campaign for Senate on how to pronounce Kamala.

“People pronounce my name many different ways. Let #KidsForKamala show you how it’s done,” she said.

Read next: Boomers love him, millennials don’t: Who is Joe Biden?

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