Update: Biden chooses Harris as running mate, making her first Black woman VP candidate

Former President Barack Obama said Biden 'nailed it' with choice

Kamala Harris is Biden's pick for running mate

Presumptive Democratic White House nominee Joe Biden has chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate this fall.

Biden made the announcement Tuesday, ending months of speculation as to whom the 77-year-old former vice president would choose to fill out his November ticket.

In a letter to supporters, Biden explained his choice, according to NBC News.

“I've decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation starting in January 2021."

- Biden said in an email

Former President Barack Obama hailed his former vice president’s running mate selection, saying, “Joe Biden nailed this decision.”

“By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character,” Obama adds.

Obama calls Harris an “ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead.”

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington.

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

Harris, who is also Indian American, joins Biden in the 2020 race at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in the U.S., far more than the toll experienced in other countries. Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused an economic collapse.

Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality. Biden’s choice offers Democrats an opportunity to unify a party still reeling from President Donald Trump’s 2016 win and solidify its future. Stacey Abrams, who was rumored to be on the short list of Biden’s possible running mates, announced her support for Harris Tuesday afternoon.

Biden’s search was expansive, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Rep. Val Demings, whose impeachment prosecution of Trump won 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.

Sign up for our Election 2020 newsletter

Rice congratulated Harris on her selection, calling her a “tenacious and trailblazing leader.” Rice said she would support Biden and Harris “with all my energy and commitment.”


The campaign has already been preparing, even as Biden himself spent some of the past week privately interviewing contenders in advance of his final decision.

»MORE: Atlanta mayor closing out DNC, Michelle Obama delivering keynote

On Tuesday, the campaign announced a slate of nine staff members already assigned to the pick, including a number of longtime Biden and Barack Obama aides. Appointment of those aides is meant to help the running mate get started immediately after she’s announced, according to Mo Elleithee, a longtime Democratic operative who served as a spokesman on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

”It has become typical over the past few presidential campaign cycles for the presumptive nominee to put a team in place so that the running mate can hit the ground running, and so that it’s a more integrated campaign,” he said. And that immediate integration into the campaign becomes all the more important at a time when nearly all of the campaign has gone online.

The unique nature of this year’s campaign — set against the backdrop of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and a reckoning over systemic racism — could add more weight to Biden’s pick than those in recent history.

Liz Allen, who previously worked at consulting firm Glover Park Group, served as both Biden and Obama’s deputy communications director, and will fill the role of communications director for Harris. Sheila Nix, who served as chief of staff to Biden during the 2012 campaign and subsequently filled the same role for second lady Jill Biden in the White House, will be a senior adviser.

Karine Jean-Pierre, who held senior leadership roles on both the 2012 and 2008 Obama campaigns and worked as a regional political director in the White House during Obama’s first term, will serve as Harris’ chief of staff. The full slate includes a policy director, political director and scheduling and advance staffers, and a number of staffers who have been serving on the Biden campaign since 2019.

Born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, 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.

As her national profile grew, Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings. In one memorable moment last year, Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

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, Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

One of Harris’ standout moments of her presidential campaign came at the expense of Biden. During a debate, Harris 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.

“There 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.”

The exchange resurfaced recently 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.

Some Biden confidants said Harris’ campaign 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.

“Joe 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 attacked Trump, labeling him a “drug pusher” for his promotion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus, which has not been proved to be an effective treatment and may even be more harmful. 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 "

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 liability.

The list included practices Harris did not vocally fight to reform while leading California’s Department of Justice. Although she required DOJ officers to wear body cameras, she did not support legislation mandating it statewide. 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.