"I'm proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign," Joe Biden said Tuesday

By Sean Neumann
August 12, 2020 05:31 PM
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California Sen. Kamala Harris
| Credit: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Following Tuesday's announcement that Kamala Harris will join Joe Biden on the Democratic Party's 2020 ticket, the California senator's career is again in the national spotlight as she seeks the second-highest office in the country.

Former President Barack Obama said that Biden, his own vice president, "nailed" the choice of a running mate.

Other prominent Democratic voices — from 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to Sen. Bernie Sanders — also voiced their support, though Harris drew some criticism in the most progressive circles, particularly for her law-enforcement background.

President Donald Trump, who attacked Harris as a "nasty" and "radical" politician, previously said that the former prosecutor-turned-lawmaker "would be a fine choice" as vice presidential nominee.

With Harris now confirmed, and as she and Biden prepare for the final months of the campaign, here are some highlights from her positions throughout her legal and political career.

Sen. Kamala Harris in 2012, when she was attorney general of California
| Credit: Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty

California Attorney General

While Harris has faced scrutiny from progressives over her shifting stance on law enforcement and criminal justice — once appealing a judge’s decision to outlaw the death penalty — she has been praised elsewhere for work as San Francisco district attorney and then as California's attorney general.

As the state's top prosecutor from 2011 to 2017, when she became a senator, Harris was celebrated in California for fierce negotiating tactics that helped secure the state $20 billion in a relief settlement with big banks during the home foreclosure crisis.

As attorney generals from other states looked to settle with the banks for a smaller amount, Reuters reported that Harris pulled California out of the settlement talks and negotiated for a larger deal. The move was criticized by other attorneys general, though it helped hr bond with Biden’s late son Beau, who was then the attorney general of Delaware.

"There were periods, when I was taking the heat when Beau and I talked every day, sometimes multiple times a day," Harris wrote in her 2019 memoir. "We had each other’s backs."

Beau died in 2015 from brain cancer and Harris maintained a bond with his dad.

"I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse," Biden said on social media Tuesday. "I was proud then, and I'm proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign."

Still, as it did in her unsuccessful primary bid, Harris' track record on police reform is sure to cast a shadow for some. As The New York Times detailed earlier this month, "over the years, she has proudly labeled herself both a 'top cop' and a “progressive prosecutor.' ”

For example, according to the Times, "Since becoming California’s attorney general in 2011, she had largely avoided intervening in cases involving killings by the police."

But the Times reported that "by the end of her tenure in 2016," however, "[Harris] had proposed a modest expansion of her office’s powers to investigate police misconduct, begun reviews of two municipal police departments and backed a Justice Department investigation in San Francisco."

Sen. Kamala Harris on June 25
| Credit: Alexander Drago-Pool/Getty

Harris' Senate Career

Once elected to Congress in 2016, Harris became only the second Black woman ever in the Senate.

An alumna of Howard University, she vowed on election night in 2016: "I intend to fight. I intend to fight for Black Lives Matter. I intend to fight for truth, and transparency and trust. I intend to fight. I intend to fight for a woman’s access to health care and reproductive rights.”

As a lawmaker, she co-sponsored Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill, calling it "the right thing to do." While running in the 2020 Democratic primary, however, she proposed a plan that would use private insurers to help achieve the progressive goal of universal healthcare.

In Congress, Harris quickly became a vocal opponent of many Trump appointments and decisions, voicing concern about the president's travel ban on countries with large Muslim populations, criticizing his choice of Betsy DeVos to be the Education secretary and voting against Trump's appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Perhaps her most memorable moment in the Senate may have been her tough questioning on Trump's other Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump remembered Harris' questioning of the federal judge as "nasty" on Tuesday, following the vice presidential announcement, while her supporters look back on the moment as an example of her prosecutorial skills.

From left: former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris on July 31, 2019
| Credit: Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Harris' 2020 Presidential Campaign

Biden's new running mate spent 2019 vying for his spot on the Democratic ticket. The two notably went head-to-head during an emotional exchange over race at a primary debate last July, when Harris challenged Biden on his previous reluctance in the 1970s to support mandatory school busing legislation.

Their back-and-forth was headline-grabbing, given Harris' friendship with the former vice president and his late son, Beau.

Harris briefly rose in the presidential primary polls but it wouldn't last and she left the race at the end of the year, while Biden's Super Tuesday comeback in March paved the way for him clinching the Democratic nomination.

While in the primary rce, Harris called on expanding the Obama-era protections for immigrants on the path to U.S. citizenship through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She also released her own modified "Medicare for All" plan and said she would work to eliminate private prisons, according to Politico.

From left: former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris
| Credit: Maya Harris/Twitter

Harris in 2020

After dropping out of the 2020 race in December, Harris attention for most of the election year has been pointed toward managing the novel coronavirus pandemic in California and across the U.S., as well as introducing legislation designed to dismantle racial inequality in the wake of George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis and subsequent national unrest.

Harris this summer became a leading voice in the Senate on issues of racial injustice and criminal justice reforms. In early June, she introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 in the Senate.

Harris told The New York Times that the proposed legislation was “but one piece of” what was needed to reform the U.S. legal and policing systems. “It is very specific and it is about police accountability,” she said then. “It is about making sure that there’s accountability and consequence when people break the rules and break the law.

Harris has distanced herself from the left-wing call to get rid of police officers in a push to defund and abolition, but she supports plans to redistribute funds from policing to other social initiatives.

“We do have to reimagine what public safety looks like,” Harris told the Times. “It is status quo thinking to believe that putting more police on the streets creates more safety. That’s wrong. It’s just wrong. You know what creates more safety? Funding public schools, affordable housing, increased homeownership, job skill development, jobs, access to capital for those who want to start small businesses or who are running small businesses in communities.”