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Connecticut Democrats embrace Kamala Harris's historic moment

State and local Democratic leaders are ecstatic that presidential candidate Joe Biden has chosen U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Harris is both the first Black woman and Indian American to be on a major-party presidential ticket. She was California’s attorney general from 2011 to 2017 and has been representing the state as a U.S. senator since. During her presidential campaign, Harris notched one of the standout moments of the debates when she criticized Biden for his willingness to work with segregationist legislators and for his record on busing.

When former Sen. Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s vice presidential search committee, recently asked Harris about her ambush on Biden in the first Democratic debate, Dodd was stunned by her response. “She laughed and said, ‘That’s politics.’ She had no remorse,” Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the exchange to Politico on condition of anonymity. Dodd reportedly felt Harris’s attack was a cheap shot.

Biden’s selection of Harris has been met with unmitigated praise from area politicos. New London Democratic Party Chair and candidate for the 20th District state Senate seat Martha Marx said she was “thrilled” when she heard Biden had chosen Harris.

“Four years ago, my heart was broken and I was pretty devastated. I thought we were going to have our first female president,” Marx said. “Since then, I’ve seen the constant racism and sexism and homophobia coming from the leadership of my country, and now we have an incredibly strong woman, a woman of color, that is going to give young girls of color so much hope and so much to dream for.”

Marx said she is proud to be on the same ballot as Harris. She said Tuesday was a “very exciting day in the history of the United States.” She also highlighted how much women of color have given to the Democratic Party.

“Women of color have been the steadfast rock of our party,” Marx said. “They vote the most, they get out the vote the most, they work the polls, they raise the money, they do everything, and yet they’re so seldom sitting at the table. It’s about time!”

Marx’s counterpart, New London Republican Party Chair Kat Goulart, is decidedly less impressed by Biden's choice. She brought up Harris’s past as California’s “top cop” and how it may be toxic to the Democratic Party’s left wing.

“When Harris was attorney general, her office put tens of thousands of people behind bars. When she ran for president, that was kind of what killed her run,” Goulart said. “That is something that is very anti-Democratic Party philosophy, which is progressive on prison reform. To see Harris as a VP pick knowing that history is really very surprising.”

Marx was dismissive in response to Harris’s history as a prosecutor. She said the senator’s past pales in comparison to the misdeeds of President Donald Trump.

“It’s her job, she did the best that she could. I’m sure she looks back and has regrets,” Marx said.

U.S. Rep Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said he thought Harris was a “solid, great choice.”

“This is a person who has been in the public eye in very intense jobs as a district attorney, an attorney general and U.S. senator for the largest state population-wise in the country; she’s very capable of taking on the task,” Courtney said. “There’s going to be huge excitement for her nomination, which, when it happens, will create history.”

Courtney speculated that Harris could help deliver Michigan, a swing state Trump won narrowly in the previous election.

“We have text chains with some of my colleagues, and I was talking to my friends from Michigan who said that (Harris is) going to run really strong in Michigan,” Courtney said. “This guy wasn’t just puffing — he comes from a purple district, so that’s, in my opinion, an impressive endorsement.”

New London NAACP President Jean Jordan is supportive of a Harris vice presidency.

“I think it speaks to the character of Joe Biden that he picked Kamala Harris after they clashed during the debates,” Jordan wrote in an email. “It is another historic moment in our time. While she is the third female to be nominated as VP, she is the first to encompass a biracial background of Black (Jamaican) and Asian (Indian). We wish her well on her endeavors.”

Southeastern Connecticut League of Women Voters President Irene Weiss said that while her organization is nonpartisan, it’s encouraging that a woman of color is on a presidential ticket.

“To have a woman on the ticket is a joy for us,” Weiss said. “A woman of color is especially exciting after all the struggles people have gone through to gain equal rights.”

Weiss took the opportunity to urge voters to “look at all the candidates, not just president and vice president, but local candidates. Fact check, get as much information as you can, and see if the candidates line up with what you as a voter think is important.”

Before Biden announced Harris as his running mate, Democratic Day readers said they felt Biden should pick her, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams or another established female politician to run with him. Others hoped Biden, a centrist, would appease the left of his party and spring for Sens. Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

Statewide reaction

Gov. Ned Lamont and other Connecticut Democratic officials all applauded a Biden-Harris ticket.

“Senator Kamala Harris is a true leader and the kind of person who will be incredible for our country by the side of my good friend Joe Biden,” Lamont wrote in a tweet.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz remarked on Harris’ “proven executive and legislative experience” in a statement. She said Harris “will be a powerful voice for equality and opportunity everywhere.” She also said Harris is Vice President Mike Pence’s “worst nightmare” as “a fearless and accomplished woman dedicated to protecting women’s (health care)” who will “stand toe-to-toe with him on the debate stage in Salt Lake City.”

Democrats nationwide have pointed to Harris’ prosecutorial background and sharp questioning during Senate hearings as reasons why she can handle Pence during a debate.

In a statement regarding the Harris pick, Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo spoke of sexism in politics from a personal perspective.

“As a woman in politics, I know how hard it is to break through into leadership roles,” DiNardo said. “Kamala Harris is tough, fearless and won’t be intimidated by whatever sexist attacks come from the Republicans. I am so proud of the Democratic Party for fielding historic candidates and we look forward to electing the Biden/Harris team on November 3rd.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted his personal view of Harris: “Here’s what I’ve learned about my friend Kamala over the past 4 years: She’s got great instincts, and she trusts them. When she makes a promise, she keeps it. Friendship and family matter to her more than almost anything. If you’re in a fight, you want her in your foxhole.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement that he has worked closely with Harris on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he admires “her insight, integrity, and dedication to justice.”

“She is a historic choice and an absolutely wonderful person,” Blumenthal continued. “I know that Americans across the country will be deeply impressed and inspired by Kamala as they come to know her as I do.”

U.S. Rep Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, sent a tweet with a photo picturing her and Harris together and the caption “Nailed it!!!!” She later tweeted that to say she’s “thrilled about this powerful/historic moment is the understatement of the year. 2020 IS NOT CANCELLED!!”

State Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden said in a Facebook post that Harris “is a formidable choice for America.” He said her candidacy represents “a special moment in history for Black and Brown girls everywhere who can finally see themselves in a vice presidential candidate.”

s.spinella@theday.com 

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