Mark Makela/Getty Images
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris on Tuesday became the first Black and South Asian American woman chosen for national office by a major political party, when former Vice President Joe Biden named the moderate former prosecutor to be his running mate this fall.

Harris, 55, has spent her career breaking barriers.

In California, she was the first woman — and first Black woman — to serve as the state’s top law enforcement official. She is the first Black woman from California to serve in the US Senate, and second from any state, after Illinois’ Carol Moseley Braun. Harris is also the first person of Indian descent to appear on a presidential ticket.

And if Biden defeats President Trump in November, Harris would become the first woman in US history to serve as vice president.

Harris follows Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984, and Republican Sarah Palin, in 2008, as only the third woman to be chosen as the running mate on a presidential ticket. Both of those campaigns lost to icons of the opposing parties — Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, respectively.

During the Democratic presidential primary, Harris, who would drop out before the first round of voting, often found herself stuck in between the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, led by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and its moderate establishment, headlined by Biden. The left criticized Harris’ record on criminal justice, from her election as district attorney in San Francisco to her time as California’s attorney general.

Those concerns were amplified after Harris’ spectacular entry into the race in January 2019, when her announcement was greeted by an adoring crowd of 20,000 outdoors in Oakland, California. Her campaign would become the most expansively waged by any Black woman in American political history. Decades after Shirley Chisholm ran for president in 1972, Harris amassed more than $35 million dollars over 11 months, despite the challenges that Black women candidates face raising in money.

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