Biden’s VP Selection Matters to Latinos. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Graphic via Desirée Tapia for The Americano

By José M. Simián

August 6, 2020

Here’s a who’s who of the powerful women being considered for the Democratic ticket.

With less than 100 days to the November 3 election, one big mystery remains: Who will be the V.P. candidate chosen by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden?

No stranger to the V.P. game, Biden has made clear what he wants: During a March debate with then-presidential-hopeful Bernie Sanders, the former vice president said he would pick a woman to be his running mate.

In the following months, and with the reactivation of the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer, pressure mounted on Biden to make good on that promise with a woman of color, and the alleged short list of candidates tilts in that direction.

Biden initially said that he would announce his running mate during the first week of August, but in the last few days reports emerged from his campaign pointing to an announcement the week before the Democratic National Convention, which starts on August 17.

Sources from the Biden campaign have indicated that the search for a candidate for vice president does not just revolve around pure politics and what demographic or state that person can help him secure. He is said to be looking “for somebody as loyal to them as they were to Barack and Michelle Obama,” according to insider Christine Pelosi, the daughter of the House speaker

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Still, the vice president choice helps round off the ticket, and signal to Latino voters where Biden stands on certain issues, mainly their economic opportunities, health care, and the larger vision for the country.

Here’s the list of the candidates on Biden’s short list, with a look at their potential appeal to the Latino electorate. 

Kamala Harris

Up until she ran for president herself against Biden and got the spotlight in some of the debates, the current senator from California was better known as Attorney General of that state. She is the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where she has proposed cutting middle-class taxes, advocated for police reform, and pushed to make higher education more affordable. In spite of her clashes with Biden during the debates, she has long been seen as one of his most likely running mates.

The Latino angle: During her campaign, she made a point of offering Latinos the chance to ask questions in Spanish (via translation). The daughter of two immigrants, a Jamaican father and a Tamil Indian mother, she identifies simply as “American,” a story that connects her with immigrant communities. As a senator, she has supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and the DREAM Act, two promises that were part of her presidential platform. Finally, in 2019, a Univision poll showed Harris with the second most-favorable rating among registered Latino voters, behind the only Latino candidate, Joaquín Castro.

READ MORE: Undocumented Youth Are Mobilizing Voters to Get Trump Out of Office

Elizabeth Warren

A senator from Massachusetts since 2013, the other former presidential candidate in the mix is also considered one of the most likely picks. After dropping out of the race in March, she has thrown her support behind Biden and helped raise millions for his campaign. The former Harvard Law School professor has made the fight against corporate power and wealth concentration her signature issue. 

The Latino angle: Warren was one of the presidential candidates with the most comprehensive set of promises to this key demographic, entitled “Restoring America’s Promise to Latinos.” Her plan included comprehensive debt relief for Puerto Rico, closing the pay gap for Latinas, immigration reform, and guaranteeing access to reproductive health for Latinas.

Michelle Lujan Grisham

As the governor of New Mexico since 2019, Lujan Grisham is currently focused on containing the COVID-19 pandemic and managing the ensuing recession. Previously, she enacted clean-energy legislation and a minimum wage hike for the state. 

The Latino angle: Lujan Grisham is the first Democratic Latina elected state chief executive in the history of the United States, and also the only Latina in the short list. 

Grisham was elected to Congress in 2011 and has paid special attention to supporting local tribes, equal pay for women and veterans’ healthcare. She became the first Democratic Latina to be elected to governor in New Mexico in 2019. 

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Karen Bass 

Currently serving her fifth term in the House of Representatives, Bass has focused on criminal justice reform and intellectual property rights. Previously, Bass was a member of the California Assembly, where she was elected as the 67th Speaker of the Assembly and had to work with then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to navigate the state’s financial crisis

The Latino angle: As a young activist, in 1973 Bass joined the Venceremos Brigade to go build houses in Cuba. Bass has remained interested in the island over the decades and made an effort to put earlier statements about Fidel Castro into context, aware that this could be an issue with Florida voters. “The other thing about Cuba, by the way, that has always interested me is that the Cuban people look like me,” she has said.

Tammy Duckworth

The senator from Illinois is a veteran of the Iraq War and a recipient of a Purple Heart. Before the Senate, she was elected to the House in 2012 and was director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. After losing her two legs in combat, Duckworth has championed the cause of people with disabilities.

The Latino angle: As someone who was born in Thailand to a Thai Chinese mother and an American father, and grew up around Southeast Asia before her family settled in Hawaii when she was 16, Duckworth carries the immigrant and multicultural perspective with her. As a senator, she has promised to keep pushing for “comprehensive, fair, humane and just immigration reform” because she believes that “America is at its best when we embrace our nation’s rich immigrant heritage.” 

“America is at its best when we embrace our nation’s rich immigrant heritage,” Duckworth said.

Susan Rice

Although she has never run for office, Rice has a close relationship with Biden from working in the Obama administration as a National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the United Nations. While at the UN, she worked on human rights, poverty, and climate change. She has recently called for statehood for Washington, D.C. 

The Latino angle: Her UN work gives her a global and multicultural perspective. Rice recently said she understands the deep economic repercussions the pandemic is having, “and how that suffering has disproportionately affected communities of color in this country, particularly African Americans and Latinos.”

Val Demings

Before being elected to the House of Representatives to represent Florida in 2017, Demings spent nearly 30 years in the Orlando Police Department, becoming its first female Chief of Police in 2007. As a legislator, she has focused on gun control and law enforcement, and served as an impeachment manager in the Senate trial of Donald Trump.

The Latino angle: As someone who attended segregated schools in Florida in the 1960s and started her career as a social worker, her personal story can create a powerful connection with minority communities. Her Florida roots and her past in law enforcement may be a key asset in carrying the swing votes of that crucial state.

READ MORE: Here’s a Step-by-Step Guide on How to Register to Vote in Florida

Keisha Lance Bottoms 

This summer made Bottoms a national figure when, as mayor of Atlanta, she had to manage the response to the pandemic while confronting the killing of Rayshard Brooks by a police officer. Bottoms fired the officer responsible for the death of Brooks and announced new restrictions on the use of force by the police.

The Latino angle: Bottoms’ response to COVID-19 has kept an eye on the higher impact it has had on the Latino community.




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