With Joe Biden’s announcement coming shortly, we provided a primer to the top VP candidates and where they stand politically.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden will announce his pick for vice president next week. It’s a pivotal moment for his campaign. A strong candidate, one with whit, grace, personality, and chops, could add momentum to a campaign. Biden’s selection will need the energy to capture all parts of the Democratic party from centrist democrats to progressives.
There’s one thing we know for sure: the pick is going to be a woman. During a debate in March, Biden announced that he was going to pick a woman vice president. Since that declaration, politicians like Sen. Kamala Harris, former Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have come up as names being considered. There have more names brought up, covering a wide spectrum of politics.
With the announcement coming up shortly, we thought we would provide a primer to the top candidates and where they stand politically. Here are the women being considered for the vice presidency spot.
Ranking: Left-leaning Democrat
The name that’s risen to the top of the crop as a frontrunner for VP is California Sen. Kamala Harris. She’s a favorite amongst a certain pedigree of young, Black Democrats who reminisce fondly about the Obama years. As California’s former district attorney and attorney general, Harris has gotten flack in the past for her former work which been seen as harsh and pro punishment. Yet, she’s managed to prevail due to her demeanor during Senate hearings, her involvement in Trump’s impeachment proceedings, and her debate performance where here she stood her ground against Biden on busing.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a frequent sparring partner with Joe Biden during the debates before she dropped out of the race in March. She gained traction last year and at the top of 2020 due to her ability to garner the support of Black women activists and progressive young voters who both pushed her to the forefront of the Democratic party. At the moment, Warren is a policy advisor for Biden. Politico notes her politics have shaped the former vice president’s policies as he’d adopted her ideals on student loan debt, bankruptcy, and Social Security. She’s a selection that could potentially awaken Bernie Sanders’ supporters who were disappointed when he left the presidential race months ago.
Stacey Abrams was thrust into the spotlight in 2018 after losing to Brian Kemp in Georgia’s gubernatorial race. After losing by less than 55,000 votes, Abrams started the voting rights organization Fair Fight. (She publicly alleged the voting was not conducted fairly). Her star has continued to rise since her election defeat; in 2019 she delivered the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union. Abrams has also been publicly campaigning for the position, even though her prospects to get the position have reportedly dropped over the last couple of months.
Ranking: Left-leaning Democrat
Though she may not be a household name for many Democrats, Susan Rice is highly qualified for the role of VP. During the Obama administration she served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and then as the national security adviser. She worked particularly close with Biden when he was vice president which is a great selling point. Additionally, while she chaired the Cabinet-level National Security Principals Committee, Rice provided Obama with daily national security briefings. Her impressive background makes it clear that she would make a great VP pick.
Ranking: Centrist Democrat
Violent deaths of African Americans experienced at the hands of police have made global headlines this year. Many have said that Biden has to pick a candidate for the times we’re in. Which is Biden’s shortlist also includes Jacksonville, Florida Rep. Val Demings, a Black woman who started her career as a cop over two decades ago. She went on to serve as a police chief of the Orlando Police Department for three and a half years. In recent months Demings has vocally spoken out against the killing of George Floyd. She was also a co-sponsor of the recent police reform bill that passed in the House. Lastly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi picked Demings to prosecute against Trump in the Senate.
Keisha Lance Bottoms
Ranking: Centrist Democrat
Keisha Lance Bottoms’ biggest distinguisher is that, as the current mayor of Atlanta, she oversees a majority-Black city in the Deep South. In the past, she’s also served as a two-term city council member and county magistrate judge. She stood out early as a supporter when she endorsed Biden over a year ago as he was grappling with his first presidential debate. Bottoms has risen in notoriety this year due to her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Atlanta. Republican Governor Brian Kemp recently sued Bottoms over her city-wide mask mandate, he believes her policy violates his executive order which encourages mask-wearing, but doesn’t require it. Since race and police reform are hot topics this year, she appears to be qualified to speak to the pivotal moments we’re experiencing.
One thought that comes across voters’ minds is whether a VP would serve as a competent president. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth meets the requirements. Duckworth is a former combat vet who lost two legs serving in Iraq, she’s also a recipient of the esteemed Purple Heart. During her political career she worked as the director of the Illinois veteran affairs department and later served under the Obama Administration as assistant secretary of veteran affairs. In 2012, the fiery Duckworth became the first-ever Thai-born woman and disabled woman to be elected to Congress. For what it’s worth, she’s also not afraid of Trump and has publicly called out military leaders for supporting him.
Tammy Baldwin may not be a household name, but her experience is quite notable. The Wisconsin Senator has a track record of liberal politics that has been documented during her two decades in Congress. If elected she’d be the first openly gay vice president. (Back in 1998 she was the first openly gay woman elected to Congress.) Baldwin endorsed Biden later, after Bernie Sanders left the race, which followed Biden winning the Wisconsin primary. She’s consistently advocated for Medicare For All and was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Wisconsin is currently a battleground state which is why it’s impressive that she’s won two statewide elections there. Trump turned the state’s electoral college votes red in 2016 for the first time in 32 years. Her experiences could prove to effectively turn this state blue which Biden is counting on for the November election.
Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor, profile has taken off tremendously this year deriving from her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Politico notes she shut down restaurants and schools way ahead of other states. Additionally, she has the political chops to back up her current status: she served in the House from 2001-2006 and then nine years in the State senate. The New York Times reports she supports abortion rights and stricter gun laws. Most importantly, since flipping Trump states is highly important for Biden, she could drive Michigan’s Dems to do this in the battleground Rust Belt state.
Rep. Karen Bass is the current chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, a highly regarded role in the House. Bass has publicly shared that it’s “highly important” for Biden to select a Black woman as VP. Beyond this she spearheaded the June police reform bill the House Democrats presented following the numerous police killings of 2020. Her name may not ring loudly, but she’s represented a Los Angeles district since 2011. Her past before politics as an emergency room physician assistant at the outset of the AIDS crisis and civil rights activist make for a colorful, unique set of qualifications. Due to her resume, she can speak to civil unrest and health care, two largely important topics for the Joe Biden Campaign.
Michelle Lujan Grisham
Two years ago, Michelle Lujan Grisham was the first Latina Democrat to win a governorship. Prior to her role as Governor of New Mexico from 2004-2007 she was New Mexico’s health secretary. She also has 13 years under her belt as the state’s Agency on Aging. To put it plainly, Grisham shines here because no other candidate on the shortlist can say they have this stack of accolades in healthcare. In 2020, her swift reaction to COVID-19 has led her to catch the attention of the mainstream media. She locked New Mexico down and declared a state of emergency back in March.
Robyn Mowatt is a staff writer at Okayplayer where she covers culture, music, and fashion. You can see what's on her mind @robyn_mowatt.