National,  State

How Vice-Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris Could Affect Florida’s Vote

On August 11, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate. The selection was first sent out through text and email to Biden’s followers, stating: “Joe Biden here. Big news: I’ve chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate. Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”

Although Harris’ presidential campaign came to an end earlier this year, her ascension through California’s government has been seen as a success story. Beginning with her 2003 victory for San Francisco district attorney, Harris’s accomplished career has included a period as California’s state attorney general. Currently, Harris is serving as a senator from California, a position she has held since 2016.

Biden’s pick of Harris became a historic choice in American history. Harris became both the first Asian American and first Black woman to be a candidate for either of the two major political parties in the general election for vice president. For many citizens, the choice signals a sign of hope for an increase of diversity within the Democratic Party.

“This is one step in a much larger fight for representation toward the multi-racial democracy women of color have dreamed of, fought for and bled for, for generations,” said Aimee Allison, Founder of She the People.

Harris’ position as Biden’s running mate has energized various groups in Florida, specifically in south Florida’s Caribbean communities.

With her Jamaican American background, Harris has shown to be a unifying figure for communities whose roots lie in Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. This diverse Black community of more than 2.5 million people, nicknamed the Caribbean Massive, has often been overlooked in the past, but it now appears to be an influential electorate in the upcoming election.

“Florida’s Caribbean community and central Florida’s Caribbean community will play a critical role in helping turn Florida blue in electing Vice President Biden as the next president of the United States,” said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.

The Harris pick may have serious implications for relevant issues within Florida, which could be a defining factor in which way the swing state flips during the general election in November.

In a news analysis by Resources for the Future regarding climate change in Florida, sea levels on Florida’s coast are expected to rise 8 to 12 inches by 2040. Additionally, hurricanes are expected to become more severe, saltwater intrusion will worsen water quality, and the prevalence of mosquito populations will increase.

Harris has maintained a history of supporting and proposing legislation meant to curb the adverse effects of climate change predicted to occur in Florida. Harris was an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, which was intended to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. She also endorses a climate pollution fee.

In the past, Harris has referred to herself as “top cop,” which has incited worry among the criminal justice reform community. She also has a controversial past regarding the criminalization of marijuana.

Throughout Harris’ term as state attorney general, Politifact found 1,883 admissions to the state prison system on marijuana offenses. However, in 2018, Harris came out as a supporter of the legislation of marijuana.

The prospect of legalization of marijuana in Florida has seen steps forward in recent weeks since its medical legalization in 2016, the state medical industry is now able to sell edibles.

“We need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives,” stated Harris.

In the aftermath of Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris, the reception from Florida Democratic officials has been positive overall. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., who once was speculated to be considered by Joe Biden for the position as his running mate, expressed her support for Harris soon after the announcement.

“For a little girl who grew up poor, Black and female in the south to be considered during this process has been an incredible honor. I feel so blessed. To see a Black woman nominated for the first time reaffirms my faith that in America, there is a place for every person to succeed no matter who they are or where they come from,” said Demings.

Featured image: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People. Unmodified photo by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/30w8vbA)

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