‘Why not a Black woman?’ Consensus grows around Biden’s VP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden is facing growing calls to select a Black woman as his running mate as an acknowledgement of their critical role in the Democratic Party and a response to the nationwide protests against racism and inequality.
The shifting dynamics were clear late Thursday when Amy Klobuchar took herself out of contention for the vice presidency. The Minnesota senator, who is white, told MSNBC that “this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket.”
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has already pledged to select a woman as his vice president to energize the party’s base with the prospect of making history. But following the outrage over the police killing of George Floyd last month, many Democratic strategists say there’s growing consensus that the pick should be a Black woman.
“Like it or not, I think the question is starting to become, ‘Well, why not a Black woman?'” said Karen Finney, a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Finney, who was one of 200 Black women who signed a letter to Biden encouraging him to select a Black woman for his ticket, warned the former vice president could face a backlash if he chose a white woman.
“That puts a lot of pressure on Biden. It puts a lot of pressure on who he selects, no question,” she said. “The country is recognizing the gravity of this moment, the significance of this moment.”
Biden’s team has been vetting potential candidates for weeks and has begun whittling down their list of choices. Several of the potential contenders are Black, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, Florida Rep. Val Demings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Susan Rice, who served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Latina, is also in the mix.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is white, is also leading contender. Another possibility who is white, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, said last month she had opening conversations with Biden’s team about potentially serving as vice president. In a Thursday interview, she said, “Beyond that, there’s just not much new to report.”
Antjuan Seawright, a veteran Democratic strategist, said the current moment calls for someone who understands the challenges faced by Black Americans.
“There’s a renewed sense of urgency around the need to have someone who can speak to the experiences of today and advocate for the promises of tomorrow when it comes to populations of constituencies in this country who’ve been left out for a very long time,” he said.
Klobuchar’s decision was in part a reflection of the fact that her own chances at getting the VP nod diminished after Floyd’s killing.
She was a prosecutor years ago in the county that includes Minneapolis, and during that period, more than two dozen people — mostly people of color — died during encounters with police. Floyd’s death last month set off days of protests across the country and criticism that as the county’s top prosecutor, Klobuchar didn’t charge any of the officers involved in citizen deaths.
Officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with Floyd’s murder, was involved in a fatal October 2006 shooting of a man accused of stabbing people and aiming a shotgun at police. Klobuchar’s successor as prosecutor, Mike Freeman, sent Chauvin’s case to a grand jury, which was customary practice for the office at the time, and the grand jury in 2008 declined to prosecute. Freeman has said Klobuchar, who won election to the Senate in November 2006 and took office in January 2007, had no involvement in the Chauvin case.