Joe Biden has named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, making history by selecting the first black woman to compete on a major party's presidential ticket and acknowledging the vital role black voters will play in his bid to defeat President Donald Trump.
In choosing Harris, Biden is embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the unique rigour of a national campaign.
The 55-year-old first-term senator, who is also of South Asian descent, is one of the party's most prominent figures. She quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her own White House campaign ended.
She will appear with Biden for the first time as his running mate at an event Wednesday near his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
In announcing the pick, Biden called Harris a "fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country's finest public servants."
She said Biden would "unify the American people" and "build an America that lives up to our ideals".
Harris joins Biden at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 160,000 people in the US, far more than the toll experienced in other countries.
Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused severe economic problems. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.
The president told reporters on Tuesday he was "a little surprised" that Biden picked Harris, pointing to their debate stage disputes during the primary.
Trump, who has donated to her previous campaigns, argued she was "about the most liberal person in the US Senate".
"I would have thought that Biden would have tried to stay away from that a little bit," he said.
Biden, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama's vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House.
He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would centre on two white men in their 70s.
Biden's search was expansive, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Rep. Val Demings, whose impeachment criticism of Trump won party plaudits, California Rep. Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response to unrest in her city garnered national attention.
A woman has never served as president or vice president in the United States. Hillary Clinton was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.
Two women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their parties lost in the general election.
The vice presidential pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Biden would be 78 when inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the presidency.
He's spoken of himself as a transitional figure and hasn't fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024.
Australian Associated Press