One of the lesser-known connections between Senator Kamala Harris and presidential hopeful Joe Biden: Joe's son Beau Biden, who passed away from brain cancer in 2015. Harris knew Beau while they were both Attorneys General, and the two became close. It's that relationship that partly informed Joe's decision. The history-making announcement for Harris as Joe's VP—Harris is the first Black or South Asian woman on a major party's presidential ticket—was made more personal and poignant as the two spoke about their shared history and love of Beau in their first joint appearance. What do we know about this critically important relationship, which has had a profound effect on both of them?
Kamala Harris and Beau Biden were both Attorney General.
When Harris was Attorney General for California, Beau Biden was also Attorney General of his home state of Delaware for four years. The two connected over their work, and particularly during the Great Recession of 2008 and the 2011 housing crisis when both were up-and-comers. Harris experienced criticism for pulling California out of negotiation for a proposed settlement regarding foreclosure, but she explained that Beau was an ally for her during that time and supported her decision. The two were apparently wary that the settlement would absolve several major banks of previous wrongdoing; Beau and Harris negotiated for much higher settlements than originally proposed. The two also apparently talked over other issues together and connected over shared challenges.
Calling Beau an "incredible friend and colleague," Harris has long spoken about her deep friendship with Beau. When introducing Joe at the California Democratic Convention in 2016, she said, "Joe has given so much to our country...On top of everything he has accomplished, he gave us my dear friend Beau Biden." And Biden, in turn, endorsed her for senator.
Harris attended the memorial service for Beau.
Beau had suffered from brain cancer since 2010 and had been undergoing treatment—but when it returned in 2015, it progressed rapidly. Beau's health declined over several weeks and he passed away that May.
In attending the service, Harris explained, "I feel fortunate to have known Beau as a friend and to have had the opportunity to work closely with him," she said.
And on the fourth anniversary of his death, she tweeted that she continued to miss him:
Beau's death understandably devastated the entire Biden family—and father and son had been particularly close (sources even claimed there was talk of Beau being his father's political "heir"). Part of the closeness stemmed from previous family tragedy: When Beau was young, he and his brother were in the car accident that claimed the lives of his mother and baby sister. "Amtrak Joe" took the train home every week to be with his sons, and it bonded the three of them together.
Harris' friendship with Biden influenced him to pick her for VP.
According to insiders who know Joe well, he values personal relationships as much if not more than political connections. Some were surprised by Joe selecting Harris, especially since they had clashed pretty significantly during the Democratic debates. In the run-up to the announcement, though, Joe has praised Harris and their relationship seemed to be more friendly.
Joe mentioned the connection between Harris and his son when he announced her as his VP pick. "I watched as [Beau and Harris] took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I'm proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign."
And in his announcement to supporters, Joe went further. "I first met Kamala through my son Beau," he said. "He had enormous respect for her and her work. I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign." Biden called Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff "honorary Bidens."
And Harris referenced Beau too in their joint appearance, as Joe bowed his head with emotion. “I learned quickly that Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves,” she said. “He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, ‘Where’d you get that, where’d this come from?’ he always talked about his dad.”