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Editorial: Kamala Harris will strengthen Biden's presidential bid

Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards, The Mercury News on

Published in Op Eds

Joe Biden's selection Tuesday of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate was a smart and safe pick that breaks barriers while maintaining the centrist positioning critical for carrying swing states in the election less than three months away.

Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent on a major national ticket. As a presidential candidate, she proved to be a tough political debater and as a senator to be a razor-sharp interrogator and advocate for social justice.

Her skills as a prosecutor will serve Biden well during the remainder of the campaign, especially in her debate with Vice President Mike Pence. And her relative youth, thoughtful approach to policy and background as a woman of color will provide Biden a solid sounding board if he is elected president.

If Biden turns to Harris as President Barack Obama relied on Biden for advice, it will broaden him as a candidate and as the nation's leader. As for the ultimate vice-presidential qualification -- especially because Biden, if elected, would be 78 when he took office -- Harris has demonstrated that she is well-qualified to step in as commander in chief.

In most normal years, the selection of a vice-presidential running mate has not proven to significantly affect the top-of-the-ticket race. But Biden, while running with Obama in 2008, saw the damage of a bad pick when Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Moreover, this isn't a normal year. Apart from the higher focus on Biden's running mate because of his age, the Democratic candidate raised the stakes with his announcement that he would pick a woman and the anticipation that, in a time of increasing focus on racial inequity, his selection would be a person of color.

Harris was one of only two remaining top vice-presidential contenders -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren being the other -- who had already been campaign-tested during this election season. And while Harris' presidential campaign failed to live up to its potential, she also knew when to quit and didn't embarrass herself with gaffes in her first national campaign.

The selection of Harris will put California, and the Bay Area in particular, in the spotlight. The daughter of two immigrants, an Indian American mother and a father from Jamaica, Harris was born in Oakland, raised in Berkeley and served as a prosecutor in Alameda County and San Francisco before her election as San Francisco's district attorney and then state attorney general.

 

President Donald Trump undoubtedly will ramp up his attacks on Harris' native city and state and try to portray her as a left-wing radical. But, as the nation has already found out, Harris is anything but. As her presidential campaign revealed, she is sometimes to a fault cautious in her political approach.

Ironically, her only real breakout during the campaign was her takedown of Biden, when she questioned his record of opposition to busing in the 1970s and '80s and of working in Congress with two segregationist senators.

Biden deserves credit for his willingness to look past the attack and recognize the strength and stability Harris will bring to the ticket.

(c)2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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