On Tuesday, presumptive Democratic Nominee Joe Biden named his running mate: California Sen. Kamala Harris. Some Democrats in Douglas County see the pairing as a healing force for the nation, while Republicans say the duo won’t act in the community’s best interest.
Harris, who has served as a U.S. Senator for California since 2017, is the first woman of color to be nominated for vice president by a major political party. She was formerly the first woman and first African-American to serve as California’s Attorney General, according to her Senate website. Before that, she was the District Attorney for San Francisco.
Alana Lenihan, the Chair of Democratic Party of Oregon for Douglas County, said she is happy with Biden’s choice of running mate for November’s presidential election.
“I think (Harris has) been tough in the Senate, and her track record speaks for itself. And in the primary, the issues she stood for, will play well with the public in this election,” Lenihan said. “I think it will excite the Democrats in this county and give them more passion for this election, and hopefully energize them to get out the vote.”
Harris’ presidential primary bid ended in December of 2019. Her campaign emphasized racial and social justice. As the first Indian American U.S. Senator, she currently sits on several Senate committees, including the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
In the Senate, Harris has supported measures to raise the minimum wage and promote access to public health care. She also co-sponsored the Green New Deal, alongside Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
For Valynn Currie, the Republican Central Committee Chairperson in Douglas County, Harris’ progressive-leaning track record is cause for concern.
“She adds energy to Joe Biden’s campaign where there was none, but for America, it would be a horrible situation if Biden and her were elected,” Currie said.
Currie described Harris as a socialist and said she disagrees with the senator’s policies on gun control and abortion access. She also said the Biden campaign is against free speech.
“The socialism that it would bring in would be a negative influence on businesses in the county, and the gun control implemented federally would cause people to be up in arms,” Currie said. “It would create a lawlessness in the county if they take over and we end up with a socialist country. A lot of the freedoms that we now take for granted could be eliminated.”
Harris has faced criticism on both sides for her role as attorney general, where she worked toward criminal justice reform, but also opposed the use of body cameras on police and fought 2015 legislation that would require her to investigate police shootings, according to the Associated Press.
“I think that she’s two-faced, and I think that she has prosecuted people for minor things and then let some of the major things go,” Currie said.
Lupe Preciado-McAlister, a precinct committee person for the Democratic Party in Douglas County, said she sees Harris’ background as a strength. That background extends beyond her career.
“It’s the fact that she comes from immigrant parents. I myself am an immigrant,” Preciado-McAlister said.
Harris being the child of immigrants — her mother from India and her father from Jamaica — makes her inclusion in the campaign an important milestone for many Americans.
Preciado-McAlister, who sits on the Douglas County Fire District No. 2 rural fire board, said that Harris’ leadership could have a positive impact locally.
“Douglas County has a lot of criminal issues, and I think if we had sensitive commissioners who could put their differences aside and work with her, I think they could get a lot of things accomplished to help the police and sheriff’s department here locally,” Preciado-McAlister said.
Roger Snyder, a precinct committee person for the Republican Party in Douglas County, said he doesn’t think the Biden campaign will properly represent Douglas County, where 64.1% of the overall vote went to Donald Trump in 2016.
“I’m just proud of the president that we elected, and we really need him to continue the job he’s doing,” Snyder said.
Larry Hall, a precinct committee person for the Democratic Party in Douglas County, said he thinks Harris will be a good balance for Biden and is happy she will address diversity and women’s rights issues.
“It’s hard to predict Douglas County. They do tend to be very conservative, but I hope they do listen to the platform of the Biden-Harris ticket,” Hall said. “I think they can come across as healing and helping this incredible divide. I think that’s Biden’s strength: he is not a divider and he will look to work with the Republican Party.”