BY IAN LEI OCT. 6, 2020
Born in Oakland, California to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Kamala Harris, 55, is a former San Francisco district attorney and a former attorney general of California. Since 2017, Harris has been serving as a senator from California.
She announced her campaign for president of the United States as a Democratic candidate in January 2019,2 but dropped out of the race in December of that year.
Current Vice President Mike Pence, 61, is a former six-term Indiana congressman and the former governor of Indiana who served from 2013 to 2017. Pence is deeply religious; he describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”3
Throughout her political career, Harris has been a strong advocate of climate change proposals. She co-sponsored Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey’s Green New Deal in 2019. During her presidential campaign, she proposed a $10 trillion plan to have the U.S. be carbon-neutral by 2045.5
Harris is a proponent of stricter gun control. As attorney general, she confiscated illegal firearms and other weapons in a statewide gun sweep that she launched.6 In 2017, she cosponsored a bill that would ban assault weapons.7
While she supports the reduction of prison populations, elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing and abolishment of private prisons,8 Harris has drawn criticism for her stance on criminal justice reform as district attorney and attorney general.
Pence has admitted that humans are affecting the climate. However, he repeatedly refused to acknowledge that climate change is a threat to the U.S. in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper in 2019.11
Pence is a strong Second Amendment advocate. As governor, Pence signed into law a bill that would allow individuals to have a gun in their car while in school parking lots if they had a concealed carry permit.12 Calling his decision “a common sense reform,” Pence said that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens would make communities more safe.13
In 2018, Pence supported the passage of a bipartisan criminal justice bill that would revise federal “tough on crime” laws from the 1980s and 90s.14 Pence believes that police officers serve the best interest of Americans.15 In August 2020, he accused Biden and other Democrats of not supporting law enforcement.16
Up until the mid-20th century, the role of vice president was a largely irrelevant position due to vague definitions in the Constitution of what the role should entail.18
Now, vice presidents play an instrumental role in broadening a presidential candidate’s appeal and in policy development.19 For example, Dick Cheney, the vice president under George W. Bush, is credited with forming much of the U.S.’s response to the 9/11 attacks and being a major factor behind the U.S.’s decision to enter the Iraq War.20
Vice presidential debates typically do not have a determinative effect on the outcome of a presidential election. However, the upcoming vice presidential debate places great pressure on both Harris and Pence, especially given that President Donald Trump was recently hospitalized for COVID-19. If the remaining presidential debates are canceled due to Trump’s health, this vice presidential debate would be the final debate in the 2020 elections.21
Pence will mostly likely have to account for the Trump administration’s record on the pandemic.22 Harris plans on centering the debate on the pandemic and access to health care.23