By Darlene Donloe, Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES — Reaction was positive and swift from local Black leaders and activists in Los Angeles after Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made a historic and unprecedented move Aug. 11, announcing California Sen. Kamala Harris, a woman of Black and South Asian (Indian) descent as his running mate.
After months of speculation, the move, they say, shows the inclusion of the Democratic Party and is historic because, for the first time in history, a Black woman will run on the ticket of a major party to serve as second in command, which essentially is a straight line to the presidency.
Biden had vowed in March during a primary debate that he would pick a woman as his running mate. Others under consideration included U.S. Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Biden picked Harris, 55, who launched her own bid for the presidency in January 2019, from that shortlist.
Bass, who served as speaker of the California Assembly from 2008 to 2010, praised Harris after the news broke.
“I worked closely with her when I was in Sacramento and she was the district attorney in San Francisco,” Bass said. “I continue to work closely with her here in Washington, D.C., as we push to reform our nation’s policing system. California is better because of her work as attorney general and stronger because of her work as senator. Now all Americans will benefit from her work as vice president.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Twitter not long after Biden’s announcement.
“Principled. Brilliant. Compassionate. Empathetic. Honest,” wrote the governor, who will have to appoint someone to replace Harris if the Biden-Harris ticket is successful in November. “The perfect choice for Biden. That’s Kamala Harris.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, tweeted that Biden had made a historic selection.
“I believe that the two of them together will respect and honor our Constitution, strengthen our democracy and economy and work for a good quality of life for our children and families,” Waters wrote.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas released a statement congratulating Harris on being selected as Joe Biden’s running mate.
“We are in an unprecedented moment in time where the world around us is changing and we need bold and decisive leadership,” Ridley-Thomas said. “I’m pleased to have collaborated with Senator Harris and call her a friend. As one of our country’s finest public servants, her historic selection represents an opportunity to set in motion a vision of America for which we have long fought.”
“She is passionate,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who served on a committee that vetted possible vice presidents for Biden. “She is powerful. She is brilliant. She is compassionate. Kamala Harris will help Joe Biden unite the American people, restore our nation’s soul and rebuild our country so it’s even stronger than it was before. I’m proud that our vice-presidential selection process vetted and elevated so many women, each of whom is qualified to lead our country.
“This was not a political process,” Garcetti added. “We worked to build a team — one that puts women at the table, one that looks like America, and one with the patriotism, qualifications and unity to help Joe Biden conquer this virus and build back better.”
A group of community activists also praised Harris’ selection.
“Kamala has proven herself to be a tremendous leader,” said Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope. “She is what Biden needs for this ticket to be successful. Women have been leading this country without the credit and recognition for decades. They’ve been the backbone of the Democratic Party for decades. Biden wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for Black women. He knew he owed us.”
The Rev. William D. Smart Jr., CEO, and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, called this an exciting time.
“This is great news,” Smart said. “We have so many women, who first of all were the best qualified. I can’t think of a man more qualified than Harris. As a U.S. senator who ran for president and has the ability to articulate and motivate crowds and raise funds, she’s a great pick.
“Her positions were right during the primaries,” he added. “She is an important voice. California and the country will be represented well. She is tough and will be a great debater against Pence. She will pull out a great crowd to vote. Biden- Harris. I’ve had the campaign button since October.”
Asked what the Biden-Harris ticket needs to do to win in November, both Smart and Ali said they needed “to focus.”
“This election will be rough,” Smart said. “Every dirty book will be thrown and played. This thing is going to be nasty. Kamala and Biden have to go to work. They have to focus. We have got to change America in three months.”
“They really have to pay attention to everything,” Ali said. “They also have to make sure that they continue outreach to those who feel marginalized as if their vote doesn’t count. They have to assure them that it does.”
Melina Abdullah, one of the founders and leaders of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, wrote, “As much as I wanted it to be [Bass], I told y’all from the beginning that [Biden] was gonna pick [Harris]. Somebody owes me a dollar.”
“I said from day one it would probably be Harris,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “Joe would go with her for several reasons. First, she came across well, strong, and forceful during the debates. She would be a good challenge and challenger to Pence and Trump.
“Second, this is the year of the woman, and specifically Black women. I knew Kamala would fit in with the context of the times and the political trends and sentiment,” Hutchinson added. “She’s a great fundraiser, and she has a law enforcement background. Both she and Biden know to win this thing, they have to almost live in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida, because those states will decide the White House.”
Hutchinson said in picking a mate, Biden had to look at who would get him to the finish line.
“The question Biden and his strategists had to look at was, ‘Can we have a running mate, someone on the ticket to be able to go into those states and bolster Joe,’” said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said in previous elections, the vice president was looked upon as a ceremonial position, but that changed this year.
“It really changed this year,” Hutchinson said. “On inauguration day, Joe [Biden] will be almost 80 years old. We have to be realistic. There could be a health and age challenge or anything. He may only serve one term.
“Now the vice president takes on greater significance. This person may need to step in. Even if Joe finishes it out, the vice president will be in a commanding position for the White House. That’s why it took on more importance this year.”
Robert Sausedo, president, and CEO of Community Build said he wasn’t surprised by Biden’s pick.
“It seems like the logical choice, even though there were others who were equally qualified,” he said. “For me, it wasn’t a racial decision. It was a decision for what’s best for America.”