Amid protests, Harris emerges as top contender for Biden’s VP slot

WASHINGTON: Amid the nationwide protests over racism and police brutality, US Senator Kamala Harris may have found the powerful and lasting moment that eluded her failed presidential bid but could now land her the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket.

Harris, the only black woman serving in the US Senate, has marched in the streets and sponsored new police reform legislation on Capitol Hill. She has been a forceful proponent of sweeping social change and a fierce critic of President Donald Trump.

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The 55-year-old senator from California also has become a key ally for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, poised to challenge the Republican president in the Nov 3 US election, at a time when race has been thrust to the forefront of the campaign.

With Biden, 77, facing pressure within his party to choose a black woman as his running mate, Democratic donors, strategists and those close to his campaign said in interviews they think Harris is increasingly the likely pick.

The day after Biden flew to Houston and met with the family of George Floyd, the African-American man whose death last month in Minneapolis police custody spurred the civil unrest, Harris chaired an online fundraiser that netted Biden US$3.5 million.

"She understands the moment," said Marc Lasry, Avenue Capital Group chairman and a member of Biden's national finance committee. "They want someone who will galvanise people. She seems to be that person."

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A Democratic strategist with relationships in Biden's circle was even more blunt, saying recent events all but required Biden to pick a black woman – and that Harris is the most practical choice.

"It's going to be Harris. It was always going to be Harris. It was going to be Harris even when Joe Biden didn't think it was going to be Harris," said the strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity. "At some point, he was trying to convince himself black people like him so much that he could pick someone like Amy Klobuchar."

Klobuchar, a US senator from Minnesota who is white, has seen her vice presidential prospects damaged as some black activists call her record as a former prosecutor on police misconduct in the county where Floyd died disqualifying.

Harris also is a tougher sell for Democrats in the party's left wing, who have criticized her record as a former prosecutor and attorney general in California including what they viewed as a failure to crack down on police misconduct.

Skeptics remained after Harris co-sponsored a Democratic bill this week that would ban chokeholds and remove some legal protection for police officers.

"She has a history that by some accounts is not good, but we want to see where she wants to move to," said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project, a multi-racial liberal advocacy group.

'SHE'S FOUND HER VOICE'

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who has been critical of Harris, said she has seen a new confidence and idealism in the senator since her presidential run ended last December.

"She's found her voice," Levenson said. "She's part of a movement."

Biden and Harris had some spiky exchanges last year during the Democratic presidential race. Harris slammed him at a debate for his record on mandated busing as a means to desegregate schools. Some Biden advisers have told Reuters the attacks made them question whether she would be loyal because of her political ambitions.

Tom Sacks-Wilner, who serves on Biden's finance committee, called that "water under the bridge" and said DemocrRead More – Source