Bay Area sounds off about historic nature of Biden-Harris ticket

Democratic vice-presidential pick Kamala Harris and Joe Biden will appear together for the first time on Wednesday since he chose her as his running mate. 

They'll both give a public speech in Washington, D.C., to discuss working together, restoring the nation and their fight for working families.

Back in the Bay Area, where Harris was raised and worked during much of her career, her supporters and critics opined about her history-making journey. 

Biden's announcement on Tuesday positions Harris as the fourth woman and first woman of color to appear on a major party ticket in the United States, following Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro In 1984, Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin In 2008, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Her selection comes as the United States celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. It also marks a moment in U.S. history as people are reflecting on the increasing diversity in America and American politics.

Throughout her political career,  Harris has proven that a woman of color can win elections, from her victory in 2003 as San Francisco District Attorney to her election as California Attorney General, and then as California's first Black and Asian-American female U.S. Senator, she has now reached national prominence with a place on the Democratic ticket.

"When I saw that she was named, I became absolutely thrilled. It's historic to have a Black woman, an AAPI woman who's going to be on the ticket as vice president," said A'shanti Gholar, President of Emerge America, a non-profit founded by women who worked with Harris on her DA campaign.

"They realized when they looked around, there weren't a lot of women in politics, there weren't a lot of women of color in politics and they wanted to create a resource for more women to run for office," said Gholar.

Gholar says the U.S. has a history of excluding women of color from politics.

"Black, brown, indigenous women were not truly included in the suffrage movement. It wasn't until after 1965 that Black, brown and indigenous women really got the right to vote, so it hasn't been 100 years for those women," said Gholar.

Harris has embraced her background as the biracial daughter of a Black Jamaican economics professor and Asian Indian cancer researcher.

Gender and racial identity in politics, however, do not clearly translate into a bloc of votes.

"Women are not a monolith. People of color are not a monolith. We are all very different," said Gholar.

Critics from both the left and the right, question how Harris's identity as a woman and person of color will factor into the election.

"I think it's a non-issue. I think what people are more focused on is what is this ticket going to deliver for them in their lives," said Harmeet Dhillon, the National Co-chair of Women for Trump.

Dhillon, a Republican Sikh-American lawyer, says position on policy is more critical than gender and ethnic or racial background in this election.

"I don't think that's really an issue. We have a lot of senators who are women, both of California's senators are. Speaking of minorities, many countries around the world have women in positions of power including India in the 1970s had a woman prime minister, and so I think it's a fallacy," said Dhillon.

Within the progressive side of the Democratic Party, some activists have been critical of Harris' past policy positions.

"I know there is a lot of disappointment today," said Jane Kim, a progressive Democrat who formerly served as a San Francisco supervisor and a California director for the Bernie Sanders' campaign. She says Harris was not the first pick of many progressives in the primary, but Kim feels having more diversity on the national stage is critical. Women and candidates of color, she says, should be scrutinized, however, and not get a free pass.

"Expanding opportunities and what is realistic for all Americans is important. And the policy matters. And this is where voters and organizers come in. We must push and hold our elected officials, women and people of color accountable to our communities," said Kim.

Gholar says there is still a long way to go before American women of any political affiliation have an equal voice in governing the United States.

"Women are 51% of the population. We do not hold 51% of the elected offices," said Gholar, "It is our time to run for these offices, to win these offices, and to lead our country."

KTVU's Sara Zendehnam contributed to this report. 

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana