by Jennifer Sharp —
Local elected Democratic officials weighed in on presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s choice of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) as his running mate, expressing excitement at the choice and expectation that she can help carry the party to victory in November.
Biden made the announcement Tuesday (Aug. 11) and the two appeared together as presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the first time Wednesday (Aug. 12). He earlier had promised to name a woman as his running mate, but in recent weeks there was growing speculation on whether it would be a woman of color.
Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major political party. She will also be only the fourth woman in U.S. history to be selected for a presidential ticket.
As a Howard University alum and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Harris has garnered many accomplishments in her life, including being the first Black woman in California elected district attorney in 2003 and winning the U.S. Senate race in 2016.
Her former career as a prosecutor has left some African Americans questioning her stance on issues that affect the community. However, the VP-selection news has caused many people to stand in support of Harris.
The New Tri-State Defender asked several local elected officials their thoughts on Harris being named Biden’s running mate.
Memphis Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas: “This symbolism shows little Black girls that a Black woman, who is a member of a NPHC (The National Pan-Hellenic Council, a collaborative organization of historically African-American Greek lettered fraternities and sororities organization) and an HBCU alum can be in one of highest offices in the United States.
“We say that we trust Black women, so this is our time to show that we trust Black women to be in high position in politics.”
Tennessee state Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis): “I think Sen. Harris is a good choice for VP because as an African-American woman, she may spur African Americans who stayed at home when Hillary Clinton was the nominee to vote for. Additionally, she is tough, and she is not afraid to go hard after Trump.”
Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr.: “Sen. Harris getting the nod to serve as Joe Biden’s running mate and potentially becoming Vice President is historic. Hopefully, it sends a strong message to every Democratic candidate going forward, that simply paying lip service to its most loyal demographic is not enough.
“Not only do Black voters deserve candidates at the top of the ticket, but also policies that directly address the issues within our community.”
Tennessee state Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis): “I’m excited about Biden’s decision. Sen. Harris is uniquely qualified to go on a statewide election and has been vetted as someone who has run for president.
“She’s a Black woman and it’s time to recognize just how much of an important role that Black women play in the Democratic process and voting for the Democratic Party.”
Q: As a current Democratic office holder, how do you think that Biden’s decision will affect the 2020 presidential election?
Smiley: “I hope Biden’s decision will increase voter turnout because the main objective is to get a new president. This will inspire people to get out to vote, so that we will not deal with four more years of the unknown.”
Easter-Thomas: “This is the most important election in our lifetime, thus far, and we need to think about placing our personal convictions aside to come together in 2020 for a change in the presidential seat.”
Akbari: “I think that this will drive voter turnout and it is a balanced ticket. People are excited all over social media and it will put the Democratic in a good position.”
Q: Do you have any advice for African Americans who have aspirations for running for political offices?
Easter-Thomas: “My advice is to stay hard working, stay observant and stay humble. A lot can be said about a person with merit, and it is important to stay committed to serving others. It is easy to get off track, but you must stay focused on the people and the purposes.”
Smiley: “If you have aspirations to seek public office, I would suggest identifying the issues within your community that you are most passionate about, determine which public office has a direct impact on the aforementioned issues and hone your advocacy skills in preparation long before you put your name on the ballot.”
Parkinson: “Serve the people prior to asking for their vote. Your community needs you now.”
Akbari: “Just do it, do it afraid and jump in with both feet. Know that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, so why not be that person.”