After much media speculation, Joe Biden announced his running mate: Senator Kamala Devi Harris of California. Harris, who is of Black and South Asian descent, began her career as an attorney, serving as a local prosecutor in San Francisco before her star began to rise on the political stage. She formally accepted the nomination on August 19, 2020, and was sworn in on January 20, 2021 — becoming the nation's first woman vice president.
But who is she? Here's a snapshot of her life, career and stance on election issues.
Even before she and Biden won the White House, Harris had already made history. She is the first Black woman and the first of South Asian descent appear on a major-party ticket. She has been a "first" before: the first Black woman elected as a California district attorney; California's first female attorney general; and America's first Indian American senator.
It's pronounced "COMMA-la"
Harris — whose first name is pronounced with an emphasis on the first syllable, like "COMMA-la" — was born in 1965 in Oakland, California. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a breast-cancer researcher who immigrated from India; her father, Donald J. Harris, an economics professor from Jamaica.
Descended from activists
Shyamala Gopalan, seen here at left with friend Lenore Pomerance at the University of California at Berkeley, met Donald Harris when they were both studying at the school. The two divorced when Kamala Harris was 7. Kamala and her sister were raised by their mom.
One younger sister
Harris's sister, Maya Lakshmi Harris, is younger by two years. She's a political commentator for MSNBC.
Here, Maya Harris looks on as Kamala, then a presidential candidate, fields questions at a 2019 campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa.
Maya advising Kamala
A former policy adviser for Hillary Clinton, Maya Harris (far left) served as Kamala's presidential campaign chairwoman before the effort was suspended in December 2019.
A Howard University alumna
Kamala Harris attended the historically Black Howard University, where she double-majored in political science and economics, getting her undergraduate degree in 1986.
Harris then studied law the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and passed the bar in 1990. After serving as a a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California, and a few state positions, she was recruited as a deputy district attorney in San Francisco.
Here, Harris greets Mara Peoples, executive vice president of the Howard University Student Association, and Amos Jackson III, executive president, in January 2019.
Between 1994 and 1995, Harris dated State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who went on to become San Francisco mayor. As speaker, Brown appointed Harris to two political posts on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the Medical Assistance Commission.
Early clashes and ambition
As Harris's star as a prosecutor rose, she also became more vocal about politics. In the early 2000s, she spoke out against Proposition 21, which would have let prosecutors charge juveniles in adult courts in some circumstances.
By 2003, she had decided to run against her old boss, Terence Hallinan, for his job as San Francisco district attorney.
In this photo, DA candidate Harris serves a Thanksgiving meal at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco in 2003.
An early win
The race for San Francisco district attorney led to a runoff. Famous names, including Chris Rock, supported her.
Harris won, becoming California's first district attorney of color.
Here, Harris takes the oath of office from California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George in 2004. In the center is Harris' mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan,who holds a copy of The Bill of Rights.
At the time, media called Harris "a political novice and career prosecutor."
During her runoff election, Harris promised never to seek the death penalty. That promise was put to the test in 2004, when San Francisco Police Officer Isaac A. Espinoza was shot and killed in the line of duty.
The pressure put on Harris was immense; Senator Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat, spoke out at Espinoza's memorial calling for the death penalty in the case. Harris still declined.
Here, the widow of slain officer Espinoza, Renata Espinoza, and her daughter, Isabela, 4, are escorted to a police officers' memorial in Sacramento in 2005.
In another case, Jamal Trulove, a San Francisco man, was convicted of murder by Harris' DA's office in 2010. By then, Harris was running for attorney general of California.
After Trulove spent four years in prison, an appeals court overturned his conviction, and a subsequent trial resulted in acquittal. Trulove went on to win a $13 million settlement from the city of San Francisco.
Cooley v. Harris
The same year that Trulove was convicted, Harris took on Steve Cooley in the race for California attorney general.
Here, the two debate at the University of California, Davis, School of Law in October 2010.
Harris found herself in a tight race — so tight that, at first, Cooley declared victory. After mail-in and other ballots were counted, Cooley conceded.
On January 3, 2011, Harris made history, becoming the first Black woman and the first South Asian American woman to serve as attorney general for the Golden State.
Abortion rights supporter
As state attorney general, Harris continued to weigh in on political issues of national importance. Here, Harris speaks during the NARAL Pro-Choice America's luncheon in 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Tough stance on truancy
As the state attorney general, Harris held on to a policy she first embraced as San Francisco DA: criminal penalties for parents of truant children. She also advocated for courts to defer judgment if parent agreed to help get their children back in school. Critics slammed the idea, saying it went too far in punishing parents.
By 2012, Harris had clearly caught the eye of national party leaders. Here, Harris speaks during the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina — the convention that re-nominated U.S. President Barack Obama.
Harris also attended high-profile charities and other glitzy affairs.
Here, she poses for a photo with actors Hilary Swank and Sean Penn at a Hollywood event benefitting Haitian relief.
After Mr. Obama's re-election, rumors swirled: Would Harris perhaps be appointed as the nation's attorney general? Or even as a member of the Supreme Court — an idea that gained steam after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. Neither theory panned out, but Harris continued to maintain a high public profile as California's AG.
Here, Harris delivers a keynote address at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, in 2015.
A new couple
In 2014, Harris married attorney Douglas Emhoff, who has two grown children from a previous relationship.
Here, the pair arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California.
Here, Emhoff, left, poses with children Ella and Cole in 2019. Harris has says she prefers the nickname "Momala" to "stepmother."
After longtime California Senator Barbara Boxer announced her plans to retire in 2016, Harris was the first candidate to declare interest in her seat.
Here, Senator Kamala Harris attends a rally in support of the Dream Act (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in Irvine, California, in 2017.
In 2019, she announced her historic presidential bid. Here, Harris holds her niece Amara Ajagu, next to her husband, Douglas Emhoff, as she formally launches her campaign in her hometown of Oakland, California, on January 27, 2019.
"That was me"
Harris gave as good as she got during the Democratic presidential debates.
In one much-reported moment, she blasted then-rival Biden for his past views on busing.
"There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day," Harris said. "That little girl was me!"
More fire at the debates
In a later debate, in November 2019, Harris slammed those within her own party who take minority voters for granted.
"When Black women are three to four times more likely to die in connection with childbirth in America, when the sons of Black women will die because of gun violence more than any other cause of death, when Black women make 61 cents on the dollar as compared to all women, who tragically make 80 cents on the dollar, the question has to be, where you been?" she said. "And what are you going to do?"
Role in impeachment
During the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in February 2020, Harris voted to convict on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
A failed bid
Facing an uphill battle and lagging in fundraising, Harris suspended her presidential campaign in December 2019.
Three months later, she officially endorsed Joe Biden.
On August 11, 2020, Joe Biden announced Harris as his running mate.
On Twitter, Harris said, "Black women and women of color have long been underrepresented in elected office and in November we have an opportunity to change that. Let's get to work."
Policy positions: LGBTQ rights
As California's attorney general, Harris worked to deny gender affirmation surgeries to transgender inmates. She later argued that she was simply defending the position of the state, and that she had worked behind the scenes to change that policy.
As a presidential candidate in October 2019, Harris pledged to support LGBT people seeking federal workplace protections against discrimination. Harris also supports expanding the federal Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and other areas.
Here, Senator Harris greets attendees during the San Francisco Pride Parade in June 2019.
Policy positions: Police reform
Harris joined fellow Democrats from the House and Senate in June 2020 to introduce legislation to end excessive use of force by police and make it easier to identify, track, and prosecute police misconduct.
Policy positions: Abortion rights
Harris holds a 100% approval rating from two major abortion rights groups, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Conversely, anti-abortion group National Right to Life Committee gave her a 0% rating.
Policy positions: Fighting COVID-19
Harris has introduced or supported new bills that would increase access to food stamps and other nutritional needs that have been strained since the onset of the pandemic. She's also advocated for a task force to investigate racial disparities in America's approach to the virus, as well as a bipartisan commission to investigate the country's overall COVID-19 response.
Here, Harris attends an August 2020 coronavirus briefing in Delaware.
Policy positions: Voting rights
Harris has at least partially blamed GOP voter suppression for the defeat of several candidates for office, including Democrat Stacey Abrams of Georgia. She is an advocate for national standards for voting by mail, and expanding voter access to mail-in ballots.
Policy positions: International trade
Harris has said she would not have supported the North American Free-Trade Agreement of 1994, indicating that it didn't do enough to protect U.S. workers or the environment. Biden supported NAFTA.
Policy positions: Health care
Harris supported Bernie Sanders' 2017 efforts toward a "Medicare for All" bill, which would establish single-payer health care. During her presidential bid, Harris unveiled a different plan: expanding coverage while also keeping private insurance companies. The plan called for transitioning to a Medicare for All program over a decade.
She has also advocated for measures to help reduce mortality rates among newborn infants and mothers of color.
One of few
Harris is the third woman in U.S. history — after Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008 — to be nominated as vice president on a major party ticket.
Here, Kamala Harris is sworn as vice president on January 20, 2021, as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible.