"I'm here to have her back," says the potential "second gentleman"

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall and Sam Gillette
Updated November 07, 2020 12:41 PM
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Editor's note: On Nov. 7, the Associated Press projected Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The original article on Doug Emhoff, published on Oct. 28, is below.

Despite the hectic pace of a pandemic-era presidential campaign, Doug Emhoff knows exactly where he fits in.

The attorney and potential first "second gentleman" is on a leave of absence from his law firm to rally voters on the behalf of his wife, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. While he says the couple likes to compare notes from the trail, Emhoff has no plans to head up any "kitchen cabinet" of advisers to the California senator if she becomes vice president.

"I'm her husband, that's it," Emhoff said in a recent Zoom with Harris for this week's issue of PEOPLE, the couple's first joint interview since Joe Biden asked her to join his presidential ticket in August.

"She's got plenty of great people giving her political advice," Emhoff continues. "I'm her partner, I'm her best friend and I'm her husband. And that's what I'm here for. I'm here to have her back."

Harris first met the dad-of-two on a blind date in 2013, and they married the next year. (Emhoff has two children from his first marriage, son Cole and daughter Ella.)

With the novel coronavirus largely sidelining traditional campaign events as they race to make history, Emhoff and Harris, both 56, have gone on mostly separate city and virtual tours in order to cover the most ground.

In their PEOPLE interview, they discussed what it's like to campaign during a pandemic and the history they could make. (If elected, Harris would be the first woman, first Black and first Indian-American vice president.)

• Watch the full episode of People Features: Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

Doug Emhoff and Sen. Kamala Harris and  (center, from left) with his children, Cole and Ella.
| Credit: Courtesy Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff

Harris explains how their fleeting — but "cherish[ed]" — time together at home in Washington, D.C., keeps them grounded. She also talks about her husband's easygoing personality.

"Doug is extremely patient, he really is. And he has an incredible sense of humor," she says of Emhoff, whom she often refers to as "Dougie."

"One of the things that really allows us to get through these moments that are obviously very stressful — we're talking about the future of the free world — it's important to be able to laugh at yourself and each other. We do a healthy amount of both of that," Harris adds. "We don't take ourselves too seriously in the context of our relationship. You can't. You just have to flow and know what's really important."

While Emhoff isn't Harris' official adviser, he's still her sounding-board and partner.

From left: Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff
| Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP/Shutterstock
Doug Emhoff at a campaign event in Philadelphia on Oct. 17
| Credit: Zuma/Splash

• For more on Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff's time on the pandemic campaign trail, their partnership and the history they could make, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

"When we do have dinner together — it depends, because we're going to different states a lot— we meet up at night. Sometimes, it's very late at night and one of us is scarfing down food that the other has prepared," Harris says. "It has been often the case that one of us is eating at the table while the other is bringing the food and then listening to the day."

Just the other day, she says that Emhoff told her an "incredibly sad story of a nurse."

"She had COVID, went back to work using the same mask, the same gown, less money, double or triple the amount of shifts," Emhoff recalls. "I'm hearing that same story all over the country... [At campaign events,] you're actually able to talk and really hear what's going on out there... So, we can bring it right back to the campaign and figure out how to deal with it."

Emhoff does have plans if he becomes "second gentleman," but his main focus is getting through the Nov. 3 election.

"Right now, I'm just thinking about, let's get through this election and let's win this election," he says. "There are things that I'm really passionate about — including justice and access to justice. But I really just want to focus on winning this election."