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Biography of Kamala Harris

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Kamala Harris was born Kamala Devi Harris on October 20, 1964, in Oakland California. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a biologist whose work on the progesterone receptor gene stimulated advances in breast cancer research is of Indian descent, while her father, Donald J. Harris, is a Stanford University professor emeritus of economics who is of Jamaican descent. Both her parents are immigrants, having arrived in the U.S in 1958 and 1961 respectively. 

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris attended a French-speaking primary school, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, then F.A.C.E. School, and finally Westmount High School in Westmount, Quebec, graduating in 1981. After high school, in 1982, Harris attended Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C. While at Howard, she interned as a mailroom clerk for California senator Alan Cranston, chaired the economics society, led the debate team, and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Harris graduated from Howard in 1986 with a degree in political science and economics. Afterward, she returned to California to attend law school at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law through its Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP). 

She was hired as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California in 1990, where she was described as “an able prosecutor on the way up. Four years later in 1994, Speaker of the California Assembly Willie Brown appointed her to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and later to the California Medical Assistance Commission. 

In February 1998, San Francisco district attorney Terence Hallinan recruited Harris as an assistant district attorney. There, she became the chief of the Career Criminal Division, supervising five other attorneys, where she prosecuted homicide, burglary, robbery, and sexual assault cases – particularly three-strike cases.

In August 2000, took a job at San Francisco City Hall, working for city attorney Louise Renne where she ran the Family and Children’s Services Division representing child abuse and neglect cases. Renne endorsed Harris during her D.A. campaign. 

In 2002, Kamala Harris contested for District Attorney of San Francisco against Hallinan (the incumbent) and Bill Fazio. She advanced to the general election runoff with 33 percent of the vote alongside Hallinan who had 37 percent of the vote. In the elections that followed, she won with 56 percent of the vote, becoming the first person of color elected as District Attorney of San Francisco. She ran unopposed for a second term in 2007.

In 2010, she declared her intention to run for the Office of the Attorney General of California. Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, and mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa all endorsed her candidacy. In the June 8, 2010 primary, she was nominated with 33.6 percent of the vote, defeating Alberto Torrico and Chris Kelly. In the general election, she faced Republican Los Angeles County district attorney Steve Cooley. The election was held November 2 but after a protracted period of counting mail-in and provisional ballots, Cooley conceded on November 25. Kamala Harris was sworn in on January 3, 2011; she is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian American to hold the office of Attorney General in the state’s history. She ran again in 2014, against Republican Ronald Gold, whom she won with 57.5 percent of the vote to 42.5 percent on November 4, 2014. 

Kamala Harris contested for the U.S Senate from California after the incumbent, Senator Barbara Boxer announced in January 2015 that she would not run for re-election in the following year. In February 2016, Harris won 78% of the California Democratic Party vote at the party convention, allowing Harris’s campaign to receive financial support from the party. Harris faced congresswoman and fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez in the general election. She defeated Sanchez, capturing over 60% of the vote, carrying all but four counties.

In August 2020, U.S Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris to be his running mate. Joe Biden won the subsequent elections against the incumbent President, Donald Trump. And in November she became the first Black woman to be elected vice president of the United States. 

Kamala Harris resigned from her seat in the U.S Senate on January 18, 2021, before taking office on January 20, 2021, as Vice President. She was replaced by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

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