When news broke Tuesday that U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., would be her party’s vice presidential nominee, former Little Rock Mayor Lottie Shackelford grabbed her phone and started dialing.
“The first thing that I did was to call my daughters and my granddaughters,” she said.
“Can you believe it?,” she told them.
An hour later, the Democratic National Committee Women’s Caucus chairwoman was still savoring the news.
“I’m in tears and I’m so happy. This is more than historic. This is simply putting the country on the right track,” Shackelford said.
Other party members were also jubilant.
“This is our time and, as a black woman, it is emotional,” said Debrah Mitchell, president of the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus.
Over the years, black women have labored to make the party strong, she said.
“We are the base of the Democratic Party. We’re the most loyal voters. We are always tried and true,” she said. “We’ve been out here doing our part and it’s time for us to be recognized.”
Mariah Hatta, a Democratic National Convention delegate, also expressed satisfaction with former Vice President Joe Biden’s choice of running mate.
“It shows he’s comfortable with strong younger people and strong younger women of color. He’s not intimidated,” she said.
Together Biden and Harris will be formidable, she said.
“We’ve got two people on the ticket now that have solid experience and are truly fearless,” Hatta said.
State Rep. and national delegate Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, called Tuesday’s news “exhilarating.”
Kamala Harris is not only shattering a glass ceiling, she’s also “shattering the concrete and the steel,” Flowers said.
While Arkansas Democrats welcomed Biden’s choice of running mate, Republicans panned the pick.
“Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris confirms his shift to being an extreme liberal who is out of touch with everyday hardworking, taxpaying Arkansans,” said Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb.
In a written statement, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., portrayed Harris as out of step with Arkansans.
“By selecting Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s staff have shown just how radical and incompetent a Biden administration would be,” the lawmaker from Little Rock said.
Democrats dismissed Republican criticism of the ticket.
Jay Barth, another national delegate, called Harris “a thoroughly solid pick.”
“A lot of high-quality candidates were vetted and she was the one who passed the test,” he said. “She certainly has an ability to energize voters. She’s a candidate who likes people a lot and that kind of warmth comes through.”
Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray called Harris “a good pick.”
“She brings a lot of energy,” he said. “She’s an impressive person. She’s definitely the elite level of public servant.”
Karyn Coleman, the state party’s chief of staff, predicted the 2020 ticket would resonate with women.
“I am over the moon. I could not be happier,” she said. “For him to make that pick, it says he hears women all over this country.”
State Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock, had supported Harris’ short-lived presidential bid, donating money and buying campaign merchandise.
After Tuesday’s announcement, “I ran into my room, I put on my Kamala Harris for President T-shirt and my Kamala Harris hat,” Webb said.
“I’ve been a Kamala Harris fan since 2012,” she said. “I like the way she looks at the issues, I like her experience. I like her passion.”
For Summer Campbell, first vice chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Pulaski County, the joy was hard to contain.
“For me personally, I have been jumping up and down for the last 15 minutes,” she said.
Former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said he had hoped Biden would pick Harris, a friend and former California attorney general.
“I don’t think there was a single candidate that Mr. Biden was contemplating that would’ve been better equipped for the national stage than Kamala,” McDaniel said.
“She has been under the white hot intensity of the national press. She has certainly had plenty of scrutiny from political rivals. She’s been thoroughly vetted and she is totally prepared to do the job and be a committed running mate.”
Beau Biden, the former vice president’s late son and a former Delaware attorney general, would’ve been pleased to see Harris on the ticket, said McDaniel, the Democratic national committeeman.
Just 46 years old, Beau Biden died of cancer in 2015.
“It is bitter sweet that Beau is not here to see his father and our friend take that step together. It would’ve been really, really special for Beau to be here,” McDaniel said.