Here Are 7 Things Catholic Voters Should Know About Kamala Harris

President Biden’s poor debate performance has led to intensified speculation about his running mate’s presidential bona fides.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris raise their arms as guests cheer after watching the Independence Day fireworks from the White House in Washington, DC on July 4, 2024.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris raise their arms as guests cheer after watching the Independence Day fireworks from the White House in Washington, DC on July 4, 2024. (photo: Mandel Ngan / Getty )

President Joe Biden’s debate performance last week raised plenty of eyebrows, but his vice president was not among them. 

Vice President Kamala Harris defended Biden’s performance, though admitted to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the president had a “slow start” in a heated interview

"What we saw tonight is the president making a very clear contrast with Donald Trump on all of the issues that matter to the American people," Harris said. "Yes, there was a slow start, but it was a strong finish." 

Since the debate, there has been increased speculation in the Democratic political sphere and the mainstream media that Biden should not be running for president again. Though many have said it’s too late to spring a new Democratic nominee this late in the cycle, there’s still chatter that someone like California Gov. Gavin Newsom, or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could step in.  

Kamala Harris is also a logical choice given her office, and would automatically step in if Biden proved unable to execute his duties while still in office. But as a running mate she doesn’t automatically get the nod if Biden drops, and due to her poor approval ratings, it’s unlikely party leaders will push her as the replacement nominee. 

Since it’s been four years since Kamala Harris last ran for president, here are a 7 things Catholic voters should remember about her background and time in office. 

She started her legal career as a prosecutor. 

Kamala Harris’s first elected office was district attorney of San Francisco in 2004. She had been a prosecutor in Alameda County in 1990, and then went to San Francisco in 1998 as an assistant district attorney in the career criminal division. In 2011 she became the attorney general of California. 

As district attorney and attorney general, she has a mixed legacy of reform-focused and tough-on-crime policies. Harris opposed releasing prisoners from overcrowded California prisons and enforced capital punishment, while also mandating that all California police wear body-cameras and loosened the penalties for “three-strike” offenders if their third offense was nonviolent. 

She gained national recognition during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation. 

Harris won election to the US Senate in 2016. She made national news in 2018 with her questioning of Justice Brett Kavanaugh about his connection to the law firm where then-President Donald Trump’s lawyers worked, which he deflected, and pressed him on the question of Roe v. Wade. 

Harris announced her bid for the presidency on Jan. 21, 2019. In the first 24 hours, she raised $1.5 million, tying Sen. Bernie Sanders’ announcement-day record from his 2016 presidential campaign.  

During a Democratic primary debate she hammered Biden on his past association with pro-segregation politicians, doubling her support. But by December her money was running out and her campaign was stagnating. She withdrew from the race on Dec. 3, 2019. 

There was long speculation that she would be Biden’s running mate. 

The Congressional Black Caucus had urged Biden to pick a black woman as his running mate since early 2019. After Harris ended her own campaign, many media outlets and politicians speculated that she would be his pick. 

During the race riots following the death of George Floyd in 2020, Biden again committed to picking a black woman for his potential vice president. On August 11, the pick was made official. 

She is the first woman to be elected vice president and the first Black or Indian person to hold the office. She is the second person of color to be vice president, the first being President Herbert Hoover’s vice president Charles Curtis, who was Native American. 

She is the administration’s point person on abortion. 

Harris has taken a major role in the Biden administration’s abortion messaging. She has claimed that women who live in states where abortion is limited are in danger. She’s gone on the road to stump for abortion access, including in Minnesota where she visited an abortion facility in March. 

“In this environment, these attacks against an individual’s right to make decisions about their own body are outrageous, and in many instances just plain old immoral,” Harris said at a press conference in the lobby of the St. Paul Planned Parenthood.  

Minnesota’s abortion facilities have received an influx of patients from neighboring states with stricter abortion laws. She also stumped in Florida in May when the six-week ban went into effect.  

Abortion is one of the key issues for the Biden campaign ahead of the election. 

She’s the Biden administration’s border czar.  

Shortly after assuming office, Biden tapped Harris to lead the new immigration strategy to fix the influx of illegal migrants at the southern border. The administration’s plan was to fix the “root causes” of the crisis by stabilizing the Central and South American countries where most of the migrants originate, contrasting with President Trump’s plan to build a wall. 

As vice president, Harris’ role is to lead diplomacy with these nations, but has been criticized for spending little time in Central America and at the southern border. 

Illegal border crossing surged to their highest rates ever in 2023. Trump has made border safety a huge part of his platform. 

She goes viral for quirky turns of phrase. 

Harris provides meme-fodder due to her interesting intonations and phrasing, with clips of her speeches or interviews sometimes going viral. 

During the Fourth of July White House celebration yesterday, another viral moment is covering the internet today with the apparent introduction of "Vice-President Joe Biden," not president. She quickly corrected course but the video has been making the rounds. 

After she and Biden won the 2020 election, a video of her calling Biden to say “We did it Joe!” became one of the top 10 tweets of 2020. 

A video of a 2023 speech at an education commission swearing in went viral on X (formerly Twitter) when a part where Harris recalled her mother’s wisdom resurfaced.  

“My mother used to — she would give us a hard time sometimes, and she would say to us, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you young people.  You think you just fell out of a coconut tree?” Harris said. “You exist in the context of all in which you live and what came before you.” 

She has been parodied for using oversimplified language to describe the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022 on a radio show, saying “So, Ukraine is a country in Europe. It exists next to another country called Russia. Russia is a bigger country. Russia is a powerful country. Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine. So, basically, that’s wrong, and it goes against everything that we stand for.” 

One of her favorite phrases, “Imagine what can be, unburdened by what has been,” frequently makes the rounds on social media, including this four-minute compilation

She takes a harder stance on Israel than the president. 

Since the Oct. 7 start of the Israel-Hamas war, Harris has taken a slightly harder stance on Israel than the president.  

In March she demanded Israel hold an immediate ceasefire and make no restrictions on aid coming into Gaza. Later that month she warned Israel that launching a ground assault on Rafah would “be a huge mistake.” 

Biden is a longtime ally of Israel, and has not gone as far in demanding restraint or proposing retaliation on Israel’s strategy. But administration officials claim there is no chasm between the president and his deputy, only a difference in emphasis. 

The Democratic base is split on Israel, with the old guard being generally pro-Israel aid but a loud, younger contingent siding with the Palestinians.  

The Democratic nominee for president will be officially chosen at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which will begin on Aug. 19.