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U.S. Election: Joe Biden Announces Black Woman as Running Mate

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The Democrats presidential hopeful Joe Biden had on Tuesday picked Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate, a historic decision that elevates the first Black woman and first Asian American woman to run for vice president on a major-party ticket at a moment when the country is grappling with its racial past and future.

Biden’s announcement, made in a text and tweet, aligns him with a former presidential rival whose most electric campaign performance came when she criticized his record on school integration during a debate.

The decision is the most consequential of Biden’s presidential campaign and has major implications not only for the November election but for the future of the Democratic Party. Biden, 78 years old by Inauguration Day, would be the oldest president ever and has said he considers himself “a transition candidate.” The choice places Harris, who was a more vibrant and energetic presence on the campaign trail but was also at times unsteady, at the forefront of the party’s future as, potentially, the first female vice president.

Harris will now become a vessel for Democratic hopes for a diverse party empowered by women, as well as for Republican attempts to funnel a barrage of attacks that have so far been largely unsuccessful when waged against Biden alone.

Harris, 55, is the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants. The first-term senator previously served as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general. She developed a close friendship with Biden’s late son Beau, a relationship that Biden said he reflected upon in making his decision.

The move puts Biden, who served as vice president to the nation’s first Black president, in a history-making role in naming Harris as the first woman of color nominated for the position. He also has pledged, if elected, to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

While Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary in December, was an early front-runner in the vice-presidential sweepstakes, there were still lingering concerns about the sting of the debate moment on her chances — until Tuesday afternoon.

“Joe Biden here. Big news: I’ve chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate,” Biden wrote in an email to supporters. “Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”

The pick followed a final public push from Black activists, athletes and actors who urged Biden to pick a Black woman — and threatened that his candidacy would be doomed if he didn’t.

“My advice was sought,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a top Biden ally who had urged him to pick a Black woman and said that Biden called him Tuesday morning to inform him of the decision. “I talked to him [Biden] over the past several days more than I talked to him all year,” he said.

The months-long process before the decision included vetting nearly a dozen women as potential nominees. Biden on Tuesday informed some of the others that they were not chosen.

Former Obama national security adviser Susan E. Rice, who was among the finalists, quickly put out a statement congratulating Harris.

“Senator Harris is a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail,” Rice wrote. “I am confident that Biden-Harris will prove to be a winning ticket.”

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who also was under serious consideration, reflected on the historic nature of the pick.

“To see a Black woman nominated for the first time reaffirms my faith that in America, there is a place for every person to succeed no matter who they are or where they come from,” she said.

Recall Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) once looked like a front-runner, but the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people put a spotlight on her record as a prosecutor, which has drawn criticism from Black activists. Klobuchar eventually removed herself from the running, saying Biden should pick a woman of colour for the ticket.

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