12 Things To Know About Kamala Harris's Background, Attitude & Political Stances

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12 Facts About Kamala Harris' Background, Political Stances, Husband & Why She Makes Jeff Sessions Nervous
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Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris, makes men nervous in more ways than one.

The first-term United States Senator, who was sworn in in January 2017, has attracted more than her share of attention during her short congressional career so far, particularly for her aggressive, non-compromised questioning of President Trump’s cabinet nominees during the 2017 Senate confirmation hearings.

In her speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, she called out President Trump and declared her unyielding support of Joe Biden for president of the United States, as she accepted her nomination for the Democratic vice-presidential candidate.

RELATED: Who Is Kerstin Emhoff? New Details On Kamala Harris's Husband Doug Emhoff's First Wife And Mother Of His Kids

Harris’ style shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. She’s an acclaimed and successful lawyer with a long history of social activism.

Harris became California's first female attorney general in 2010. But her tendency to shatter glass ceilings and treat confirmation hearing questioning like a courtroom cross-examination has won her both praise and scorn from her observers.

The former Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, admitted that Harris made him “nervous” with her line of questioning during the Senate hearings.

After Harris asked him a question about the possible conversations he had with Russian businessmen during the 2016 Republican National Convention, before giving his answer, Sessions shot back with, “Will you let me qualify it? If I don't qualify it, you'll accuse me of lying. So I need to be correct as best I can. I'm not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.”

Sessions’ response quickly went viral as well as multiple other occasions when male Senators interrupted or prevented Harris from asking questions. (Many have argued that textbook mansplaining was the cause for why senators, who never interrupted their male counterparts, felt so comfortable constantly cutting into Harris’s questioning time.)

Harris, meanwhile, argues that she was just trying to get to the truth:

So, if you haven’t heard of her before, you should now.

Here are 12 facts about Kamala Harris everyone should know:

The first half of 2017 proved that Kamala Harris is a voice that will be heard in the Democratic Party and in the U.S. political landscape.

Several people argued at the beginning of her congressional career that Harris might, one day, become the next serious candidate for the United States’ first female president, but now she's the first female and African-American vice-presidential candidate in the history of the United States.

1. Harris is the daughter of first-generation immigrants.

Who were Kamala Harris' parents and where is her family from? 

Her mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a breast cancer researcher from Chennai, India. She came to the United States in 1958.

Her father, Donald Harris, met her mother while he was in the United States as a Jamaican fellow graduate student. He eventually became an economics professor at Stanford University.

And she has a sister, Maya Harris, who is Harris's most trusted advisor. Maya is also a lawyer and helped develop the agenda for Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidental campaign.

2. She’s broken the United States’ legislative color barrier in more ways than one.

When Harris was elected to Congress in 2016, she became the first-ever black politician to represent California in the United States Senate.

And, if that wasn’t enough, she’s only the second black woman in history to hold office in The Senate, which seems crazy, right? She's also the very first Indian-American senator.

Additionally, “She was the first woman, the first Jamaican American, the first Asian American, the first Indian American, and the first African American attorney general in California” (which is something).

3. Her first name is kind of beautiful.

What does her name mean? “Kamala” means “Lotus Flower” in Hindi.

4. She married a fellow lawyer in 2014.

In August 2014, Kamala Harris married California attorney Douglas Emhoff — after a five-month engagement. The ceremony was performed by Maya Harris, Kamala's sister.

This is Harris' first marriage and Emhoff's second. They have no children together, but she became a stepmom to Cole and Ella from his previous marriage.

5. Harris failed her bar exam the first time she took it.

Even though she eventually rose to the top legal spot on the State of California  becoming the State’s Attorney General in 2010  like many lawyers, Harris struggled with passing the bar the first time she took it.

But that certainly hasn’t stopped her career and, in 2016, she told a legal student who failed the bar, “it’s not a measure of your capacity.”

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6. She’s in favor of gun control, but considers herself a “good marksman.”

Harris publically admonished Congress for failing to pass stricter gun control laws following the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.

When she was the California Attorney General in 2015, she was quoted as saying, “They should have closed the chambers of Congress, on the House and the Senate side, and said all you members go in there, only you, and spread out the autopsy photos of those babies and require them to look at those photographs. And then vote your conscience.”

However, when Harris was asked if she’s fired a gun or gone hunting before, she “stumbled over her words” before saying, “I'm a good marksman... That’s it. I'm not going any further with this. You have just broken news.”

RELATED: Where Was Kamala Harris Born?

7. As State Attorney General, she defended California’s right to have the death penalty.

Harris has stated frequently that she’s personally against the idea of the death penalty, but as California’s Attorney General in 2014, her office made the decision to appeal a federal court decision that ruled that the death penalty in California was unconstitutional.

Her defense of the death penalty attracted a lot of vocal opposition at the time, though many have called the decision “a welcome example of putting professional responsibility over personal politics.”

8. President Obama got in trouble for calling her hot.

In 2013, while Harris was California’s Attorney General, President Obama referred to her at a fundraising event as “the best-looking attorney general in the country." While that may be true, many people were quick to label the President’s comments as sexist. 

This prompted Obama to release an apology where he made it clear that he “did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities. He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”

Both Obama and Joe Biden endorsed Harris in her Senate campaign and as the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

9. She’s not afraid to turn on her cross-examining skills during Senate confirmation hearings.

Jeff Sessions isn’t the only person who has been subjected to Harris’ penchant for asking tough, uncompromising questions during confirmation hearings.

Need an example? How about this?

Back in January 2017, during the confirmation hearings for General John F. Kelly, the new Director of the Department of Homeland Security, Harris was the only senator to ask Kelly about whether or not he’d use personal information obtained by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to deport the more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who registered with DACA to avoid deportation.

While that seems like a perfectly reasonable question for the man who will be running the Department of Homeland Security, Harris was the only Senator to broach the topic during the hearing and Kelly replied with only “I do not have a plan at this time, other than enforcement of the law.”

10. Powerful women don’t like it when men say mean things about Kamala Harris.

Harris’s questioning style in Senate hearings has attracted a lot of attention from her male counterparts. They have described her demeanor in less-than-flattering terms. But, fortunately, many other women have leaped to Harris’ defense when men have tried to throw a label at her.

For example, when Jason Harris, one of Donald Trump’s former aides, called Harris “hysterical” on CNN, political analyst Kirsten Powers challenged his insult saying, “I think she asked a lot of questions, actually. She was very dogged, there’s no question, but I wouldn’t say she was any more dogged than Ron Wyden [D-Ore.] was, would you? Would you say that? ...But he wasn’t hysterical and she was. OK, I just wanted to clear that up.”

Furthermore, after Senator Richard Burr questioned Harris’ “courtesy” towards Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted:

11. She’s not afraid to swear when the occasion calls for it.

In May 2017, Harris was being interviewed by the Pod Save America podcast in front of a live audience in San Francisco. On the podcast, the topic turned to Republican House Representative Raul Labrador, who famously told his constituents, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

Harris’s response was epic. She replied, “This guy, this congressman, you might as well say, ‘People don’t starve because they don’t have food.’ What the f*** is that?”

13. She's running for vice president under the presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Kamala Harris is running for vice president in 2020, with her presidential candidate Joe Biden. While she may be newer to the United States Senate, many people are praising her for following in Hillary Clinton’s footsteps as she became the next major female Democratic candidate on the quest for the White House.

If elected, Harris will not only be the first woman to hold the office of the vice president, but she will also be the first African-American to hold that position.

RELATED: What Is Kamala Harris's Net Worth?

Tom Burns is a husband, a dad, and a veteran of the educational publishing industry. He founded Building-a-Library, a website devoted to helping parents find the right books for their kids.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in June 2017 and was updated with the latest information.