Kamala Harris cements place in history as first female Vice President

7 November 2020, 18:27 | Updated: 7 November 2020, 18:55

Kamala Harris has been elected as the US Vice President-elect
Kamala Harris has been elected as the US Vice President-elect. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Kamala Harris has been elected as the Vice President-elect of the United States, cementing her place as the first woman to hold that office.

After days of counting, she and President-elect Joe Biden clinched victory after finally winning the 20 Electoral College votes needed in Pennsylvania to push them over the 270 votes need to remove Donald Trump.

The 56-year-old's ascension to one of the most powerful jobs in the world marks decades of societal change and progression.

To put it into context, when she was born in 1964 African-Americans were not allowed to vote until the following year, thanks to progresses made through the Civil Rights movement.

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And although women have run to be President and Vice Presidents before, Ms Harris is the first to win the race.

Two women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their party lost in the general election.

Ms Harris has been one of the party's most prominent figures and quickly became a top contender for the number two spot after her own White House campaign ended.

She now becomes Vice President-elect at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of almost 240,000 people in the US, far more than the toll experienced in other countries.

Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused an economic collapse. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

In her autobiography The Truths We Hold, Ms Harris said: "My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters.

"She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women."

Who is Kamala Harris?

Born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Ms Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco's district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry programme for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected California's attorney general in 2010, the first woman and black person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure crisis.

She declined to defend the state's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and was later overturned by the US Supreme Court.

As her national profile grew, Ms Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings.

In one memorable moment last year, Ms Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether President Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

Ms Harris launched her presidential campaign in early 2019 with the slogan "Kamala Harris For the People," a reference to her courtroom work.

She was one of the highest-profile contenders in a crowded Democratic primary and attracted 20,000 people to her first campaign rally in Oakland.

But the early promise of her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted scepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a consistent message that resonated with voters.

Facing fundraising problems, Ms Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.