Allies of Kamala Harris sought and received a meeting with Joe Biden’s campaign staff this week after a leader of his vice presidential vetting team was quoted doubting whether she’d be a loyal No. 2.
Prominent supporters of the California senator asked for the virtual sit-down on the heels of a POLITICO report Monday that Harris is not a lock for VP. It quoted former Sen. Chris Dodd, one of four members of the vetting unit, remarking to a prominent Democratic donor that Harris had “no remorse” for attacking Biden during a debate last year. Biden’s campaign at the time viewed the attack — Harris went after Biden for opposing a school busing program — as a cheap shot contrived to make him look racially insensitive.
That story and another recent POLITICO report detailed that a contingent of Democrats is lobbying against Harris to be chosen as Biden’s running mate.
The conference call included several of the state’s highest-ranking elected officials and labor and business leaders, including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, state schools chief Tony Thurmond, state Treasurer Fiona Ma and Chad Griffin, a Democratic consultant and former head of Human Rights campaign, according to organizers.
Representing the Biden campaign were the four main members of his vetting team: Dodd, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Biden’s former White House and Senate counsel, Cynthia Hogan.
Harris was not involved in organizing the call, they said.
A person on the call said Harris’ allies wanted the campaign to hear from people who know her best. The implication was that others who’ve criticized Harris to the media, and compared her unfavorably to another contender for VP from California, Rep. Karen Bass, were not providing an accurate reflection of Harris or her record.
One person briefed on the call said the Harris allies wanted to “correct the record,” and directly referenced the POLITICO reports.
“This was about us sharing how much Kamala would be a stellar vice president,” said one official who participated on the call, referencing Dodd’s earlier remarks.
“He spoke at length about her and said very nice things,” the person said of Dodd’s comments about Harris on the conference call.
POLITICO alluded to the call in a Wednesday story, but the extent of the organization behind it was unclear at the time. Dodd said “very supportive things” about Harris during the call, according to Kounalakis.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who was on the call, said he wanted to convey some of Harris’ attributes.
“We love Senator Harris, and will continue to share her incredible work and record here in California,” Garcia said. “She’s extremely loyal and has the highest integrity and character.”
Biden has said he’d name his running mate sometime next week, but aides now expect the announcement will come the second week of August.
Biden’s campaign faced a backlash over Dodd’s remarks to the donor. A second source has since told POLITICO that Dodd made similar comments about Harris on at least one other phone call during the vetting process.
A source close to Dodd said that he thinks highly of Harris, has spoken with her several times during the vetting process and that he supported Harris’ campaign for Senate.
Critics suggested that Dodd was questioning a woman for being ambitious. In a sign of the extensive damage control the campaign did in the aftermath, Biden’s campaign manager tweeted later this week: “Ambitious women make history, change the world, and win. Our campaign is full of ambitious women going all out for Joe Biden.”