U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaks at her official launch rally for her campaign for President of the United States in 2020 on January 27, 2019 in Oakland. Harris was chosen as a running mate by former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday in his presidential run. (Photography by Christopher Victorio for SF Weekly)

Sen. Kamala Harris chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate

Joe Biden has chosen Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate in his bid to defeat Donald Trump in the presidential election, giving an East Bay native with deep ties to San Francisco a shot at the vice presidency.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

“Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with Beau,” the former vice president said, referring to his son. “I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.”

The former California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney reacted to the news in a tweet.

“Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals,” Harris wrote. “I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.”

Harris, who was born in Oakland and graduated from UC Hastings School of Law, served as district attorney from 2004 until she became attorney general in 2011. She was elected to the U.S. Senate for a term that began in 2017 and later campaigned for president until dropping out of the race last December.

The news of her selection drew praise from a number of local, state and national leaders.

“I’ve long been proud to call @KamalaHarris a friend and a mentor—now I’m excited and ready to call her Vice-President!” Mayor London Breed tweeted. “Let’s go Biden-Harris!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her nomination “marks an historic and proud milestone for our country.”

“As a United States Senator, as California Attorney General and in every leadership position she has held, Kamala Harris has advanced a more just and fair future for all,” Pelosi said. “Rooted in strong values and her proud American story, Vice President Harris will be a tireless champion for hard-working families everywhere.

Harris is the first Black woman and South Asian American on a major party ticket for president. She is of Jamaican and Indian descent.

Her record as a prosecutor in particular has not been without scrutiny.

As top prosecutor of San Francisco, she faced harsh criticism from the police union for declining to seek the death penalty against the man convicted of killing an officer, Isaac Espinoza, in 2004. She also came under fire during a 2010 police crime-lab scandal for failing to disclose to the defense the criminal history of a criminalist accused of tampering with evidence in drug cases.

While holding state office, she rebuffed calls to investigate the police in various cities. That included an April 2016 request from the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi for Harris to launch a civil rights investigation into the San Francisco Police Department following a racist-text messaging scandal and a series of fatal police shootings including the 2015 killing of Mario Woods.

But later as a senator and presidential candidate, Harris positioned herself as a reformer and progressive prosecutor.

Recently, she has called for an end to police brutality and demanded charges for the Louisville, Ky. officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in March.

George Gascon, who succeeded Harris as San Francisco district attorney, called her a “champion of racial and social justice.”

“Senator Harris understands what it means to seek justice, to take on powerful people and entrenched institutions, and to lift up the less fortunate,” said Gascon, who is now running for Los Angeles district attorney. “She has long used her energy and drive to ensure the wealthy and well-connected are held accountable.”

If Harris is elected, Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint her successor as U.S. senator for California.

Newsom on Tuesday described Harris as “Principled. Brilliant. Compassionate. Empathetic. Honest.”

“The perfect choice for @JoeBiden,” the governor said on Twitter.

This story has been updated to include additional details and comments.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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