La senadora demócrata Kamala Harris.
Democratic Senator Kamala Harris. (The Associated Press)

Washington D.C. - Democratic Senator Kamala Harris appeared alongside Joe Biden as his running mate for the first time yesterday, calling on the United States to vote overwhelmingly for a “better future” and leave behind the era of “Donald Trump and Michael Pence” in 83 days.

“We need more than a victory on November 3rd. We need a mandate that proves that the past few years do not represent who we are or who we aspire to be,” said Harris, 55, who former Vice President Biden picked Tuesday as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate.

If elected in November, Senator Harris, California, will become the first female U.S. vice president.

As part of the Democratic presidential convention next week, Harris will officially become the first African-American woman to run for vice president representing one of the two major parties. She will also be the first Indian-American, her mother was born in India and her father in Jamaica.

About the Black Lives Matter movement, Harris said that, amid the  coronavirus emergency and protests against racism and police brutality,  those performing essential tasks and everyone keeping up the fight for “justice” as “the heroes of our time.”

For the senator, “there’s a reason why the coronavirus has affected the United States worse than any other advanced nation, “because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start.”

“You are the heroes of our time,” said Harris, who recalled that her parents met at civil rights protests in Oakland, California, in the 1960s. Harris said, “we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him ... In just 83 days, we have the chance to choose a better future for our country.”

Biden said he was introducing Harris on the third anniversary of the incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia, amid demonstrations by supremacist groups that turned violent.

Biden praised his former opponent in the Democratic presidential primaries, saying she has “worked hard (and) she’s never backed down from a challenge.”

Biden, who since primary elections has often described himself as a transitional president – and who would be 78 if he is sworn in as President in January - said the California senator “is smart, she’s tough, she’s experienced, she’s a proven fighter ... Kamala knows how to govern, she knows how to make the hard calls. She’s ready to do this job on day one."

They both remembered Beau Biden, the late son of the former vice president, who was Delaware’s attorney general when Harris was in office in California. Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer, and Harris forged a close friendship working hard with the measures they had to implement amid the financial recession at the end of the first decade of the century.

Harris’ formal presentation took place at a high school in Wilmington, Delaware, amid the coronavirus pandemic and just five days before the Democratic convention, which - because of the coronavirus emergency, that has so far killed more than 165,000 people in the United States - will be held remotely between August 17-20.

Democrats nominated and Americans elected the first African-American president, Barack Obama twice. In 2016, they had their first female presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump.

Now, amid protests against racism and police brutality, Biden selected Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney, and California Attorney General before being elected to the Senate in 2016.

She advocated for Puerto Rico

When she was a Democratic presidential candidate – and a day after Ricardo Rosselló Nevares stepped down - Harris said Congress must address the underlying problems of political and economic relations between Puerto Rico and the United States.

“Puerto Rico has been suffering long before the hurricanes of 2017 and recent corruption scandals,” she said in comments posted on medium.com. As a senator, she has advocated for equal access for Puerto Rico to nutrition aid and rejected the open-air detonation of Navy munitions on Vieques island.

Although Biden has not released an official plan as a White House candidate – he has spoken about Puerto Rico’s self-determination, better access to federal programs such as Medicaid, and committed to expediting the disbursement recovery funds for the island.

“Like me, one of her parents is from India. There is a beautiful immigrant story there that is important to tell and that will mobilize Hispanic people and immigrants who have been offended by Donald Trump’s nationalism,” said Popular Democratic Party (PPD) Senate spokesman Eduardo Bhatia, perhaps the only known political leader on the island to express support for Harris as a presidential candidate.

Bhatia, who is Biden’s delegate to the presidential convention, met Harris in 2019 through the senator’s sister, Maya Harris, and her husband, Tony West, who studied with him at Stanford University Law School in California.

“She can help break down barriers and help in the fight against racism, as well as continue to advance women’s fight for equality,” said former Resident Commissioner in Washington Pedro Pierluisi, PNP candidate for governor.

In his statement, at a time when the Senate Republican leadership and President Donald Trump have closed the door to the idea of Puerto Rico becoming a U.S. state, Pierluisi said he was confident that “Biden and Harris will embrace our fight for equality as well,” referring to the PNP’s proposal for statehood for Puerto Rico.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a PPD candidate for governor, met with Senator Harris on October 4, 2018, a year after Hurricane María.

That day, Cruz said they discussed the importance of the mayor having warned the people of the United States of the magnitude of the emergency on the island following Hurricane María, the situation at the University of Puerto Rico, and how Trump had “discriminated against” the island.  “It seems to me that (Harris) is a person capable of making alliances,” the mayor said.

Trump’s campaign has tried to describe Harris as a “radical,” although the President himself, as a private citizen, donated money to her. Harris, then a candidate for Attorney General, donated that money to nonprofits.