dpa/GNA – Trailblazer Kamala Harris joins the White House as Joe Biden’s vice-president as the first African-American, first woman and first person of Asian descent to serve in the role.
Her pioneering career path to high office has seen its fair share of controversies, with her professional background as a prosecutor proving both an asset and a liability to her political career.
Harris was born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, California. Her mother was a cancer researcher who emigrated from India and her father is an economist originally from Jamaica.
The 55-year-old incoming vice president spent most of her youth in Montreal, Canada before attending Howard University, a historically black college in Washington and earning a law degree from the University of California Berkeley.
She burst onto the California political scene after being elected as district attorney – the top prosecutor – of San Francisco and eventually became the first woman and first black person to become California’s attorney general in 2011.
Later, as a senator, she gained national acclaim among Democrats for acerbic interrogations of Trump administration officials that mirrored court-room proceedings.
But her history of sometimes fighting criminal justice reforms in California as attorney general has earned scorn among progressives, who accuse her of being a “cop,” an accusation that took on increased significance as nationwide protests last summer called for systematic changes to policing.
Still Harris has often backed progressive policies on criminal justice issues, such as pledging to never seek the death penalty as San Francisco’s district attorney, a promise she honoured even after the high-profile killing of a policeman, drawing criticism.
As attorney general, Harris said she was personally opposed to capital punishment, but defended the death penalty in court.
Harris, who during her own short-lived presidential campaign launched some of the most scathing attacks on Biden, has had a long relationship with his family. She was personal friends with Biden’s son Beau, an attorney general in Delaware who died of cancer.
Often described as a pragmatic moderate, critics say her ideological stance is hard to pin down.
During her own presidential bid, she was attacked for shifting her support multiple times between the most progressive government-backed health care plans and more scaled-back options.
Harris also previously supported a ban on the controversial natural resources extraction technique called “fracking”, but now backs Biden, who says he is against a ban.
Still, in her time as a senator since 2016, Harris has amassed one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate, backing legislation on environmental protection and expanded immigration policies.
Now she has been given another chance as Biden’s vice president, with many Democrats speculating she could be Biden’s successor in 2024 or later presidential contests.
Harris’s role as vice president will also usher in another first: her husband Doug Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer, will be the nation’s first “Second Gentleman,” along with the first Jewish spouse in the White House.