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HomebioKamala Harris biography, Age, Early Life, Career and Personal life

Kamala Harris biography, Age, Early Life, Career and Personal life

By Prudence Minayo

Kamala Harris is an American trained lawyer who has worked in various offices in the government. She is a member of the Democratic party and is set to assume the office of the Vice President of the United States on 20th January 2020 alongside the elected president Joe Biden, after defeating incumbent president Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the 2020 presidential election. 

This makes Harris the first female Vice President, the first Asian-American and the first African-American in the history of the United States to assume such a powerful seat.

Age

Kamala Dev Harris was born on 20th October 1964.

Early Life

Harris was born in Oakland, California to Shyamala Gopalan and Donald J. Harris. Shyamala was a biologist whose work on the progesterone receptor gene facilitated work in breast cancer research. On the other hand, Donald J. Harris is a professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University. 

She lived briefly in Berkley, California with her younger sister Maya.  She began kindergarten at Thousand Oaks Elementary School, a public school in Northern Berkeley.

At first, she was introduced to an African American church by her neighbor and began singing in the choir. Shyamala introduced Maya  to Hinduism and they began attending a nearby Hindu temple where she would sing from time to time. 

Her parents divorced when she was seven-years-old and they would visit their father during the weekends. 

At the age of 12, her Mother accepted a research and teaching job at McGill University-affiliated Jewish General Hospital and they had to move to Montreal, Canada. 

Together with her sister they would visit her mother’s relatives in Madras. This helped her identify with her maternal grandfather P. V. Gopalan, a retired Indian civil servant. He had progressive views about the rights of women and democracy which impressed and influenced her a great deal.

Harris went to Notre-Dame-des-Neiges for primary, which is a French-speaking school. She then proceeded to Westmount High School and graduated in 1981.

Harris then attended Howard University in Washington DC. At the university, she was part of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, led the debate team and worked as a mailroom clerk for California senator Alan Cranston. 

After returning to California, she attended the University of California School of Law through the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP). In 1989, she graduated with a Juris Doctor and was admitted to the California Bar in June 1990. 

Career

In 1990, she got a job in Alameda county, California as a deputy district attorney. She was appointed to the State Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board by Willie Brown who was dating her. 

In 1994, she took a six months leave and then went back to work as a prosecutor.

In 1998, she was appointed assistant district attorney by San Francisco district attorney Terrence Hallinan. She was given the role of chief of career criminal division and supervised five attorneys. Most of the cases she prosecuted were burglary, homicide, sexual assault and robbery. 

In 2000, she disagreed with Darrell Salomon who was Terrence Hallinan’s assistant and as a result was assigned a de facto demotion. She filed a complaint against him and resigned. 

In August 2000, she began working for Louise Renee. She was in charge of Children Services and oversaw child abuse and neglect cases. During her campaign to become a District Attorney, she was endorsed by Louise. 

District Attorney

Harris ran for the San Francisco DA position against incumbent Terence Hallinan and Bill Fazio. She was the least known among the three. 

Harris ran a remarkable campaign and was backed up by notable figures including former mayor Willie Brown, senator Dianne Feinstein and comedians Eddie Griffin and Chris Rock. She won by getting 56 percent of the votes becoming the first woman of color to hold this position. 

During her tenure as DA, her office was able to achieve a lot of progress including:

  • Increasing felony conviction rate from 56% to 76% by 2009.
  • Increasing drug dealer conviction from 56% in 2003 to 74% in 2006.
  • Solving 27 of 74 backlogged homicide cases by setting 14 plea bargain and taking 11 to trial. 
  • Achieving 87% conviction rate for homicides from 2004 to 2006 and 90% gun conviction rate for all felony gun violations. 
  • Pushing for higher bail for criminal defendants associated with crimes related to guns.
  • Creating a hate crime unit. The unit focused on hate crimes against LGBT children and teens in school. 

Harris also promised to never seek the death penalty and refused to change this decision even upon pressure. She believes life imprisonment without parole is a much better option. 

In November 2008, she announced her interest in the California Attorney General position. During the primary, she was endorsed by Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (California senators), house speaker Nancy Pelosi, United Farm Workers cofounder Dolores Huerta and Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. She was sworn into office on 3rd January 2011. This made her the first woman, the first South Asian American and the first African American to hold this position in the state’s history.

On 4th November 2014, she was re-elected by winning 57.6% of the votes

 In 2011, she announced the creation of the mortgage Fraud Strike Force in the wake of the 2010 United States foreclosure crisis. She also obtained two of the largest recoveries in the history of California False Claim Act. 

In 2012, she leveraged California’s economic clout to obtain better terms in the National Mortgage settlement against the country’s five largest mortgage services.  In February, the same year, she announced a deal with Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Research in Motion and Hewlett-Packard to make it necessary that apps sold in their stores showed prominent privacy policies advising users on the kind of privacy they are sharing and with whom. 

In 2013, she collaborated with Senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez to put in place the Homeowner Bill of Rights. This is deemed one of the greatest nationwide protections against aggressive foreclosure tactics.

In 2015, she acquired a $1.2 billion judgement against for-profit post-secondary education company Corinthian Colleges for untrue advertisements and shady marketing targeting the vulnerable and low income students. She also secured two settlements with Comcast over allegations that it posted online the names, phone numbers and addresses of thousands of people who had paid for VOIP phone services and another for allegations that it had tossed out paper records without first removing private customer details.

Harris also secured some multi million settlements with companies that failed to safeguard environmental rules.

Senate

On 13th January 2015, Harris announced the start of her campaign to fill in California’s junior senator seat after Barbara Boxer announced her retirement.

In the November 2016 election, she defeated Loretta Sanchez by gaining 60% of the votes.

In January, she condemned Donald Trump’s executive order that blocked Muslims from a number of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for ninety days. 

In January 2018, she was appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee after the resignation of Al Franken. 

In October 2018, she was targeted with the United States mail bombing attempts. 

In November 2019, the senator called for the investigation into the death of Roxane Hernandez. Roxane was a transgender woman who died on ICE custody.

2020 US Presidency

On 21st January 2019, Kamala Harris officially announced her candidacy for the president of the United States presidential election. During the first 24 hours after this announcement, she tied the record set by Bernie Sanders in 2016 for the most donations raised in a day following an announcement. 

On 3rd December, she withdrew from seeking the Democratic party nomination citing a lack of funds and endorsed Joe Biden for the presidency in March 2020.

On 11th August 2020, Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Personal Life 

Kamala Harris biography, Age, Early Life, Career and Personal life
Kamala Harris husband Doug Image/Reuters

Harris is married to attorney Douglas Emhoff and is step mother to his two children from his previous marriage. Her sister Maya is a lawyer and MSNBC political analyst. ,