When Joe Biden first spoke publicly with his counterpart Kamala Harris on Wednesday afternoon, he took a moment to address a possibly historical aspect of the California Senator's presence on his presidential ticket.
It wasn't that Harris would make history as the nation's first female, first black, and first Asian-American vice president if Biden wins this fall. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, an accomplished consumer electronics attorney, would also make history: he would be the nation's first second gentleman.
"Doug, you have to learn what it means to be a barrier breaker yourself in this job that you are about to take on," said Biden.
Emhoff's path to this future title of its kind was anything but intended. On the way there, as Harris became a rising political star, he has spoken openly about his love for his wife, had to protect her from physical and online attacks, and even enjoyed a bit of his own fandom on social media .
Emhoff has spoken about what he learned from campaigning with Harris during her own presidential bid – comments that might preview how he is now positioning himself in much greater public attention.
"To meet people of all kinds all over the country and really listen and really hear what's going on in their life … For a kid who grew up in New York and LA and spent most of my life in New York, Having spent LA, San Francisco and DC, it really opened my eyes, "Emhoff said of Harris' failed 2020 offer during a virtual Biden campaign in April.
An entertainment attorney from Brooklyn
Emhoff, who is 55 years old like Harris, was born and spent the first few years of his life in Brooklyn before his father, a shoe designer for women, moved the family to New Jersey. When Emhoff was in high school, the family moved back to Los Angeles.
"We moved from Central Jersey to Fast Times at Ridgemont High-era LA," Emhoff quipped in April.
He stayed in the area for college and law school, and earned degrees from California State University, Northridge, and the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law.
Emhoff later entered the field of entertainment law and worked as a litigator in various law firms. He is currently a partner at DLA Piper's Washington, DC and Los Angeles offices.
Emhoff has two grown children – Cole and Ella, named after jazz legends John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald – with his first wife, Kerstin Emhoff. The marriage ended in divorce, but the couple "remain incredibly close," Emhoff said. Both Emhoff and Harris have spoken frequently about the warm relationship between Harris and their stepchildren, with both noting that they refer to their stepmother as "Momala".
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Blind date at the & # 39; hot & # 39; state AG
Emhoff was working in Los Angeles when a client interview led to Harris on a blind date that she and he often joked about.
"I was just a guy, a lawyer, and then I met Kamala on a blind date held by legendary filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, the 'house party' and his wife," Emhoff said.
Emhoff recalled that during a business meeting with Hudlin and his wife, Chrisette, a close friend of Harris, Chrisette said she wanted to get him together with her buddy. Emhoff said that as soon as Hudlin mentioned Harris' name he remembered she was the attorney general and replied, "Oh my god, she's hot."
Hudlin gave Emhoff her number, and he texted Emhoff that evening from a Los Angeles Lakers game. As Harris described in her 2019 treatise "The Truths We Hold," Emhoff called them – a bold move, wrote Harris, whom she found "lovable."
"The morning after our first date, Doug emailed me a list of his available appointments for the next few months." I'm too old to play games or hide the ball, "it read Email. "I really like you, and I want to see if we can do this job," Harris recalled in her memoir.
Amid a month-long romance that spanned the state of California, the couple fell in love and engaged in March 2014. They married later that year in a small ceremony led by Harris' sister Maya.
Entry into the world of politics
Emhoff has recalled in several interviews that his rise as a political spouse was gradual. It wasn't until Harris ran for an open seat in the U.S. Senate in California in 2016 that he realized what it was like to be married to a rapidly emerging political star.
"When we met when she was attorney general, there were just two busy professionals at that age trying to reconcile two jobs and two cities," he said in April. "But it really hit me after we got married … and when Senator Barbara Boxer decided not to run."
"That was really 'welcome to politics'. In that race I really became a political spouse doing events," he said.
When Harris started her presidential run, he was regularly out and about.
He remembered "freaking out" when he waved at Harris when he announced that he would run at the White House in January 2019.
"It's like, holy 'F'" he said. "We thought there would be 5,000 people there" – but more than 20,000 attended the event in Oakland, California, her campaign estimated.
He was deeply moved during a visit to Flint, Michigan later in 2019 – a visit where Emhoff quietly met with community leaders about the city's water crisis. "That was probably the most powerful thing I've ever done. It just stayed with me," he said.
At the same time, Emhoff created a fun person on social media during his wife's presidential campaign. He frequently posted photos of himself in campaign gear and, memorably, a video in which he danced Pride in San Francisco in 2019 to help raise funds. Prominent Jewish publication The Forward even called him "our hot Jewish dad crush".
Emhoff made headlines and received high praise during her campaign to violently protect his wife from physical and virtual attack.
In June 2019, a man rushed to a stage in a forum where Harris was speaking and took the microphone from her hand. One of the several people who confronted the intruder and pulled him off the stage was Emhoff.
The angry look on his face that appeared as he jumped into the fight made waves on Twitter.
"I love @KamalaHarris and would do anything for her," he later tweeted.
Weeks later, Harris was attacked again – this time with a racially motivated retweet from President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Jr., questioning Harris' race. The retweet that came after a clash between Harris and Biden during the first Democratic primary debate on race issues was later deleted, but not before several reporters took screenshots of it.
I come to Twitter for this (see below ❤️) … Not the hideous, shameful, racist, sexist b / s. Thank you to all of the 2020 contestants and everyone else for calling this crap for what it is. Now Becca, my parents are still sending me front page pictures! https://t.co/EQBIxUEYmt
– Douglas Emhoff (@douglasemhoff), June 29, 2019
Emhoff went to Twitter later that night to condemn the earlier message as "hideous, shameful, racist, sexist b / s".
Harris ended her presidential campaign in December, endorsing Biden in March, and immediately stepped into the national conversation about likely Biden runmates – a period of time that coincided with the pandemic, stay-home orders, economic collapse, and national protests for racial justice overlap.
Emhoff remained true to his supportive style and praised his wife during the virtual election event in April – both as a replacement for the Biden campaign and for her recent work in the Senate, which campaigned for police reform and financial relief for Americans stricken by economic difficulties – . while at the same time trying not to attract too much attention.
"I'm trying to do my legal work and solve all of these problems for clients," he said. "And she's trying to save the world."