SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — Kamala Harris’s trip from San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office to the White House came to fruition Saturday as she became the first woman to ever win election to the post of Vice President.
The Democratic ticket of former Vice President Joe Biden and Harris were declared the winners of the contentious 2020 Presidential election over incumbent Donald Trump.
Harris took to Twitter, posting a short video of her congratulatory phone call to Biden.
“We did it, We did it Joe!” she exclaimed. “You’re going to be the next President of the United States.”
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 7, 2020
Hundreds took to the streets of San Francisco to celebrate the win by the Bay Area native.
“I really celebrate we have a woman of color as the vice president of the country for the first time in history,” said Mahlia Joyce, fighting back tears of joy. “It actually chokes me up a bit.”
Kate Rix was among the celebrants.
“She’s (Harris) worked so really hard and she’s a smart, smart woman,” she said. “She’s achieved a lot in her life — her ability, her poise, her intelligence — she’s so inspiring.”
Moments after the victory was declared congratulations rained down from local politicians.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco where Harris served as the district attorney before being elected California attorney general and U.S. senator, posted a photo of the two of them.
“My dear friend, and now Madame Vice President-elect, congratulations,” Newsom wrote. “California is so, so proud today.”
My dear friend, and now Madame Vice President-elect, congratulations.
California is so, so proud today. pic.twitter.com/EtilFvOM8w
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) November 7, 2020
The first to send out congratulations was London Breed, who also made history by becoming the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco.
“With this election, we also made history by choosing Kamala Harris as our Vice-President,” Breed said in a news release. “For the first time, millions and millions of Americans chose a black woman to help lead this country.”
“The pride I feel as a black woman is hard to put into words. Kamala Harris is a friend and mentor, but most importantly, she is an inspiration to so many of us all across this country. While Kamala’s path to Washington has been her own unique journey, she is just as sure bringing the hopes and dreams of so many little girls with her. I only wish my grandmother, a daughter of slaves and sharecroppers, a woman who raised me to believe that we can all work to make the world a better place, were still alive to see this day.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who was been a vocal opponent of the Trump Administration, also weighed in. Trump has often used Oakland as political fodder on social media as a city out of control.
“Today, America said yes: Yes to decency and compassion. Yes to new leadership that elevates our values of diversity and inclusion,” she said in a release. “Yes to a Black, Indian-American woman from Oakland. As a city, Oakland could not be more proud to see the fierce compassion and competence of Kamala Harris enter the White House. Her historic victory arrives at a moment when our deeply divided nation needs her and Joe Biden’s healing vision most.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, also chimed in.
“Today marks the dawning of a new day of hope for America,” she said in a release. “A record-shattering 75 million Americans cast their ballots to elect Joe Biden President of the United States – a historic victory that has handed Democrats a mandate for action.”
“President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris won with a strong margin, and they will have a strong Democratic House Majority by their side,” she added. ‘Working together, we have the opportunity to deliver extraordinary progress For The People.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier said Harris election was a fitting end to the Trump presidency.
“A Trump campaign punctuated by racism and misogyny will end with a Black woman in the White House and a bold agenda for women’s equality and dignity,” she said in a statement.
“The national nightmare is over. President-elect Joe Biden ran on a campaign that confirmed character counts for both the President of the United States and the soul of America,” Speier added. “He showed that compassion and critical thinking were the best path forward for our country. With Vice President-elect Kamala Harris making history at his side we can now focus on arresting the deadly and disastrous march of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can focus on building back our infrastructure, economy, and health care by strengthening the Affordable Care Act.”
Harris has been a rising star in Democratic politics for much of the last two decades, serving as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator. After Harris ended her own 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, Biden tapped her as his running mate. They will be sworn in as president and vice president on Jan. 20.
Biden’s running mate selection carried added significance because he will be the oldest president ever inaugurated, at 78, and hasn’t committed to seeking a second term in 2024.
Harris often framed her candidacy as part of the legacy — often undervalued — of pioneering Black women who came before her, including educator Mary McLeod Bethune, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s presidential nomination, in 1972.
“We’re not often taught their stories,” Harris said in August as she accepted her party’s vice presidential nomination. “But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”
That history was on Sara Twyman’s mind recently as she watched Harris campaign in Las Vegas and wore a sweatshirt featuring the senator’s name alongside Chisholm.
“It’s high time that a woman gets to the highest levels of our government,” said Twyman, who is 35 and Black.
Despite the excitement surrounding Harris, she and Biden face steep challenges, including deepening racial tensions in the U.S. in the wake of a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on people of color and a series of police killings of Black Americans. Harris’ past work as a prosecutor has prompted skepticism among progressives and young voters who are looking to her to back sweeping institutional change over incremental reforms in policing, drug policy and more.
Jessica Byrd, who leads the Movement for Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project and The Frontline, a multiracial coalition effort to galvanize voters, said she plans to engage in the rigorous organizing work needed to push Harris and Biden toward more progressive policies.
“I deeply believe in the power of Black women’s leadership, even when all of our politics don’t align,” Byrd said. “I want us to be committed to the idea that representation is exciting and it’s worthy of celebration and also that we have millions of Black women who deserve a fair shot.”
Harris is the second Black woman elected to the Senate. Her colleague, Sen. Cory Booker, who is also Black, said her very presence makes the institution “more accessible to more people” and suggested she would accomplish the same with the vice presidency.
Harris was born in 1964 to two parents active in the civil rights movement. Shyamala Gopalan, from India, and Donald Harris, from Jamaica, met at the University of California, Berkeley, then a hotbed of 1960s activism. They divorced when Harris and her sister were girls, and Harris was raised by her late mother, whom she considers the most important influence in her life.
Kamala is Sanskrit for “lotus flower,” and Harris gave nods to her Indian heritage throughout the campaign, including with a callout to her “
The mocking of her name by Republicans, including Trump, was just one of the attacks Harris faced. Trump and his allies sought to brand her as radical and a socialist despite her more centrist record, an effort aimed at making people uncomfortable about the prospect of a Black woman in leadership. She was the target of online disinformation laced with racism and sexism about her qualifications to serve as president.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington said Harris’ power comes not just from her life experience but also from the people she already represents. California is the nation’s most populous and one of its most diverse states; nearly 40% of people are Latino and 15% are Asian. In Congress, Harris and Jayapal have teamed up on bills to ensure legal representation for Muslims targeted by Trump’s 2017 travel ban and to extend rights to domestic workers.
“That’s the kind of policy that also happens when you have voices like ours at the table,” said Jayapal, who in 2016 was the first South Asian woman elected to the U.S. House. Harris won election to the Senate that same year.
Harris’ mother raised her daughters with the understanding the world would see them as Black women, Harris has said, and that is how she describes herself today.
She attended Howard University, one of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s first sorority created by and for Black women. She campaigned regularly at HBCUs and tried to address the concerns of young Black men and women eager for strong efforts to dismantle systemic racism.
Her victory could usher more Black women and people of color into politics.
Harris is married to a Jewish man, Doug Emhoff, whose children from a previous marriage call her “Momala.” The excitement about her candidacy extends to women across races.
Friends Sarah Lane and Kelli Hodge, each with three daughters, brought all six girls to a Harris rally in Phoenix in the race’s closing days. “This car is full of little girls who dream big. Go Kamala!” read a sign taped on the car’s trunk.
Lane, a 41-year-old attorney who is of Hispanic and Asian heritage, volunteered for Biden and Harris, her first time ever working for a political campaign. Asked why she brought her daughters, ages 6, 9 and 11, to see Harris, she answered, “I want my girls to see what women can do.”