After Sen. Kamala Harris made her campaign debut as Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick on Wednesday, she posed for pictures with her husband, Douglas Emhoff, who would also make history if the ticket is elected in November.
While Harris has shattered political barriers by becoming the first Black and Indian American woman joining a major party ticket, her husband would also represent a change in political and gender norms if he becomes the first male spouse of a vice president.
“Doug, you’re going to have to learn what it means to be a barrier-breaker yourself in this job you’re about to take on: America’s first second gentleman,” Biden said at his first joint appearance with Harris in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday.
Emhoff, a successful entertainment lawyer, was a mostly quiet and supportive presence on the campaign trail when Harris was running for president. He shied away from the spotlight, and was often seen backstage or at the edge of the crowd at Harris’ events sporting a “Kamala” T-shirt. But he is active on social media, with his supporters calling themselves the #DougHive, modeled after Harris’ supporters and the #KHive.
“Cueing to other voters, in particular other men, the need to sometimes step back and lift up women’s voices in this process and that sort of symbolic nod that Doug Emhoff seems to be giving is going to be important to and perhaps influence future generations of men,” said Kelly Dittmar, an associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Camden.
But he garnered attention last year when he rushed onstage to protect Harris after a protester came close enough to the senator to grab her microphone.
Emhoff also defended Harris when Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son, retweeted a racist lie that Harris is not a Black American because her parents immigrated from Jamaica and India.
A Brooklyn native, Emhoff moved to Southern California in his teens and attended the USC Gould School of Law. He launched his own firm in 2000 before Venable acquired it in 2006. Now working at the law firm DLA Piper, Emhoff has continued to focus on business, entertainment and intellectual property law in both California and Washington, DC.
He describes himself in his Twitter bio as an “advocate for justice and equality,” in addition to “dad, @kamalaharris hubby, lawyer,” and “wannabe golfer.”
Emhoff did a rare interview in March 2019 with The Hollywood Reporter and discussed his work, telling the publication that he has enjoyed continuing to practice law during the campaign “because it’s something that I love and I’m good at.”
Harris and Emhoff, who are both 55 years old, met after they were set up on a blind date in 2013 by Harris’ best friend, Chrisette Hudlin, when Harris was California’s attorney general. Emhoff was at the time divorced from Kerstin Emhoff, with whom he had two children, Cole and Ella.
Harris writes in her 2019 memoir “The Truths We Hold” that after hitting it off on their first date, Emhoff emailed her the morning after outlining his available dates for the next couple of months and telling her he was “too old to play games or hide the ball” because he really liked her.
They had a swift courtship, and Doug proposed in 2014 during a discussion of what kind of Thai take-out to order. The couple was married at the courthouse in Santa Barbara later that year in a ceremony officiated by Harris’ sister Maya.
Harris on Saturday thanked Biden supporters on Twitter for being “so welcoming” to her and her husband since she was announced as Biden’s running mate.
She wrote in Elle magazine in May 2019 about how her stepchildren came up with the name “Momala” a few years after she and Doug were married because they preferred the term over “stepmom.”
“My family means everything to me. And I’ve had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly, ‘Vice President’ will be great, but ‘Momala’ will always be the one that means the most,” Harris said on Wednesday in her first speech as the vice presidential pick.