American and global audiences have now had a formal introduction to all the primary contenders in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. With the conclusion of two presidential and one vice-presidential debate, all four contenders in the November 3 elections have presented themselves on public platforms, where their ideas, policies, and positions on key issues of concern in the upcoming elections have been duly scrutinized. PREMIUM TIMES presents comprehensive bios of all election hopefuls.
• Full Name: Kamala Devi Harris
• Age: 55
o Howard University, Political Science and Economics (1986)
o University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1989)
• Public Offices Held:
o District Attorney, San Francisco (2004 – 2011)
o Attorney General, California (2011- 2017)
o Senate, California (2017- date)
amala Harris has had many firsts in her life. In 2016 she became the first African American to be elected senator in the state of California. Prior to this, she was the first black woman to be elected District Attorney (DA) in San Francisco, California and Attorney General of the state of California in 2003 and 2011, respectively. Her selection as Joe Biden’s running mate in the 2020 presidential elections did not make her the first African American woman to run for the vice-presidency; her predecessor Charlotta Bass had that honor 70 years ago. Ms Harris, however, is the first to run as VP on a major party ticket.
While her black identity appears to feature more prominently in public discourse, and may indeed have played a significant role in her nomination, Ms Harris appears to embrace her African American and South Asian American identities equally. Born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, it is clear that the Democratic Party hopes to milk Ms Harris’ dual identities in the upcoming elections, given higher percentage growth in minority populations – Hispanic, Blacks, and Asians – among newly eligible voters as well as the general inclination of that young demographic towards the Democratic Party.
New to Washington, D.C., Ms Harris has often been regarded as a political novice, albeit less so than President Trump whose first public office was his surprise win of the 2016 elections. At the recent VP debates, watchers worried about how her relative lack of political experience, especially in Foreign Policy issues, would play out against Vice President Pence, who has been in national politics since 2001. However, given her multiple decades of prosecutorial duties and her experience as a state attorney general, it is no surprise that she was able to hold her own during the debates.
Ms Harris came to Washington, D.C. on mixed reviews. Her fluid positions regarding law enforcement-related issues have placed her both at odds with the police and the public in equal measures. For instance, her controversial decision to refrain from pursuing the death penalty on behalf of a murdered police officer in 2004 caused a rift with the police union. Yet, her position on the death penalty, declining to support legislation to end the death penalty in California, has earned her criticisms from advocates who argue that she has not walked her talk on the issue. Critiques have also accused her of not doing enough to address police brutality, which overwhelmingly affects black communities, when she was attorney general.
In the Congress, Ms Harris’ committee assignments include Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Budget, Judiciary, and Intelligence. On legislation, she has largely focused her attention on Health, Crime and Law Enforcement, Government Operations and Politics, and Immigration. Her International Affairs legislation places her interests broadly in Asia and Eastern Europe.
Despite her African American roots, she has not shown particular interests in the African continent or US foreign policy interests in African countries, perhaps reflecting the larger US foreign policy divestment and domestic focus. She was not part of the delegation of the Congressional Black Caucus’s 2019 visit to Ghana to observe the 400th Anniversary of the First Enslaved Africans Landing in America. Since 2017 her legislative interests have touched just two African countries, Sudan and Nigeria. In 2019, she cosponsored a bill by Ted Cruz to address the transfer of power in Sudan, where long-standing civil unrests continue to cause tensions and opportunities for authoritarian rule. Additionally, in 2018, Ms. Harris co-sponsored “a resolution condemning Boko Haram and calling on the Governments of the United States of America and Nigeria to swiftly implement measures to defeat the terrorist organization.”
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