Aug. 12--Helen Whiteford immediately recalled her own upbringing, as the child of immigrants, after learning presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden picked U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, whose parents came from India and Jamaica, to be his vice presidential running mate on Tuesday.
Whiteford's parents came from the Ukraine.
"The business of immigrants, that has such a profound effect on me because I am a daughter of immigrants," said Whiteford, chairwoman of the Cambria County Democratic Party.
"Every time, especially this business with the wall, how they were treated, maybe I have a soft spot. However, my parents came over, never saw the inside of a school, couldn't read or write, couldn't even speak English. So that has a profound effect on me."
She said Harris, a senator from California, was her first choice for vice president from the outset of Biden's selection process.
"She's got it, and she's going to be one tough campaigner," Whiteford said.
Cambria County Controller Ed Cernic Jr., also a Democrat, thinks Harris is "a good pick" who "rounds out the team real well."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., an early endorser of Biden, said Harris will be an "excellent vice president."
"In the Senate, she's been a leader on efforts to help working families make ends meet and reform policing in America," Casey said in a release statement. "As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she's held the Trump Administration accountable. I know she will fight for Pennsylvania families and jobs as vice president."
Biden, who is expected to accept the Democratic Party nomination next week, said, as early as last year, that he would prefer a person "of color and/or a different gender" for a running mate. Speculation about several possible choices, including Harris, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and U.S. Rep. Val Demings, had circulated ever since Biden became the final candidate in the Democratic race.
"(Harris) wouldn't have been my first pick," said Cambria County Commissioner William "B.J." Smith, a Democrat.
"My pick probably would have been Val Demings from Florida. I just don't know what the plan would be for him. Going forward, some of these people that he left out are they going to be part of his cabinet? I don't know that. That would have been my first pick, Val Demings, because there's a lot of unrest in the country right now. She comes with a police background."
The Biden-Harris ticket will run against President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who carried Cambria County with 67% of the vote in 2016.
Cambria County Republican Party Chairwoman Jackie Kulback said, in her opinion, Trump's message still connects with local voters, including with how he is dealing with the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Trump focusing on the economy and getting it back on track is big for our area," Kulback said.
Kulback feels Harris' positions are out of step with the region, pointing to the senator's support of the Green New Deal, a legislative proposal to address climate change and economic inequality, while eliminating the use of fossil fuels.
"The thing that concerns me the most is Sen. Harris supporting the Green New Deal," Kulback said. "That just puts a bullseye on our region."
The proposal "would be a death sentence" for the area, according to Kulback.
Harris also supports Medicaid for all in place of private health insurance and removing criminal penalties for illegally entering the United States. She once compared U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the Ku Klux Klan during a hearing on Capitol Hill.
"I think that's a lot for people in Cambria County and our region to really accept," Kulback said.
U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-Blair, 13th Congressional District, said Biden and Harris "are selling a radical, far-left agenda that Pennsylvanians don't want and can't afford."
"From killing our energy jobs to ending Medicare and taking away our health care choices, the Biden-Harris platform doesn't work for us," Joyce said. "We need a pro-family, pro-work, pro-growth administration to see us through the coronavirus crisis, and the hardworking people of Pennsylvania will once again choose President Donald Trump to rebuild our economy, restore our values, and lead us on the road to recovery."
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