Utah Democrats see Kamala Harris as a unifying force for a divided America

(Brynn Anderson | AP file photo) Then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to questions after the Democratic primary debate on June 27, 2019.

Darlene McDonald says that as a child, the thought of a Black woman like her getting elected as vice president was so unimaginable that it never even occurred to her.

Now, Joe Biden selected California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate — and McDonald, a Democratic National Committee member from Utah, is over-the-moon ecstatic.

“I’m practically in tears. I think it is wonderful,” McDonald said. “It is the first time that an African American woman and an Asian American woman has been chosen as a vice presidential nominee of one of our major parties. So, this is historic and we’re living it — and I’m embracing it.”

Harris’ parents are immigrants. Her mom is from India and her dad is from Jamaica.

McDonald, like other Utah delegates to the Democratic National Convention next week, sees Harris as enthusing Democrats nationally, and as a force to unite an America torn apart by protests over discrimination and police violence.

“It will energize and mobilize a lot of people,” McDonald said. “It is a ticket that’s representative of America. We have a population that is more diverse, and it’s good that we see a ticket that represents that.”

McDonald added, “We have a president who ran on dividing the country. I think the country is hungry for unity, and a unifier in chief as they had called [former President Barack] Obama.”

Utah House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, a pledged Biden delegate, said Harris brings experience the country needs as a minority and a prosecutor.

“She can say, ‘I understand the feeling that people with the Black Lives Matter movement may have for what it means to be discriminated against … but I also recognize very dearly and understand what it means to be a public safety officer and struggle with prosecuting crime.‘”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who is Utah’s Democratic National Committeewoman and a delegate, also sees Harris as a unifier.

“Much of what protesters are asking for, Kamala Harris represents,” Wilson said. “We came a long way with the civil rights movement, with the election of Barack Obama as president, and there’s still a long way to go. So the idea that an African American woman has a seat at the table and is on a ticket that has a good chance of winning is remarkable.”

Rep. Ben McAdams, the lone Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation and a convention delegate, said Harris may help all women in politics. “Sen. Harris is an experienced leader and a historic choice that breaks down barriers to women in politics.”

Utah’s Democratic delegates also believe Harris will help encourage voters in heavily Republican Utah to look closely at the ticket.

“She’s absolutely the right person to take on Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail,” said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant, who is also a convention delegate. “We’re really excited to see what she can do to help Democrats across the country and also here in the state of Utah.”

Harris and Vice President Mike Pence will hold their one and only debate on Oct. 7 at the University of Utah.

Charles Stormont, Utah’s Democratic National Committeeman, said Harris could help drive voter turnout among Democrats nationally, and might help in Utah.

“The key to this election is turnout. President Trump is a dumpster fire that a lot of people don’t like. If we can inspire folks to show up and vote for this great ticket, that’s one of the big keys to victory,” he said.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is a pledged Sanders delegate who says she still always liked Biden. But now with Harris on the ticket, “It makes me want to go knock on doors for Joe Biden. I’m ecstatic. I’m excited.”

As a minority and a woman, Romero says the selection of Harris shows Biden’s “commitment to being an inclusive president.” She adds Harris also helps balance the ticket as a westerner with Biden from the East.

Zach Thomas, the Weber County Democratic chairman and a Sanders delegate, said he believes many Sanders supporters might be disappointed in the selection of Harris, “but we just really need unity and for everyone to come together to support this ticket. … We’d all be excited to elect a Black woman to the vice presidency.”

Thomas adds that Harris “could really inspire the new generation of voters and communities of color,” and said he personally is “so excited to work with the party to get Trump out of the White House and move forward.”