Kamala Harris' husband Doug Emhoff is set to break stereotypes

Scott Stump
·5 min read

As the spouse of Kamala Harris, the country's first female vice president-elect, Doug Emhoff is set to break some stereotypes of his own.

Emhoff leaving his successful career to prepare for an undetermined role in the White House under the administration led by president-elect Joe Biden is already a gender reversal, one that often sees a female spouse leaving her job to support her husband's political career.

Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris Addresses Virtual DNC From Delaware (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris Addresses Virtual DNC From Delaware (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

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The 56-year-old attorney had been on a leave of absence from his private law practice since August, after Biden announced that Harris would be his running mate. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that he is now leaving the California law firm of DLA Piper to take an as-yet unspecified role in the White House. (Disclosure: DLA Piper has previously represented Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal).

It's not clear yet what issues Emhoff will pursue as the first "second gentleman" in history.

He also will make history when he becomes the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president once Harris assumes office next year.

As for what his potential role may be in the White House, Emhoff has not given any concrete details. The future first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, put a spotlight on military families as the second lady during Biden's time as President Barack Obama's vice president, while current second lady Karen Pence has focused on art therapy and military families during her time in the White House.

In an interview with Glamour, Emhoff said, "I’m humbled, I’m honored to have put it all on hold—my career, family life, everything—to help Kamala on this campaign and really help Joe. Because as I’ve been saying on the trail now, I love Kamala Harris, but I’ve gotten to know Joe and Jill very well on this campaign. And I love them too. They’re just incredible."

Emhoff's ability to bring people together and form a quick bond on the campaign trail was lauded by Democratic officials. Emhoff was called a "secret weapon" on the campaign trail by Los Angeles Mayor and Biden-Harris national co-chair Eric Garcetti, according to The Washington Post.

He has experience adapting to new surroundings given that he was born in Brooklyn, New York, grew up in New Jersey and then moved with his family to southern California when he was in high school.

"He just has this quality where he can bring a room together,” his son Cole, 26, told Marie Claire.

Harris and Emhoff have been married since 2014. Cole is one of Emhoff's two children from his previous marriage to film producer Kerstin Emhoff, along with his daughter Ella, 21, who affectionately calls Harris "Momala."

"I love being surrounded by strong women," Emhoff told Glamour. "I’m glad to have had a strong mother. She’s got what we call street smarts, but she’s also so intelligent. It’s just all I knew. When I got older, it made sense that I would want to continue to be around smart, powerful women. But also women who are funny and compassionate and actually want to do good in the world.

"People talk about it like it’s something unique or a big deal, but I think, 'Well, everyone should want to know strong women and support them.'"

Emhoff was a source of comfort for Harris when she decided to drop out of the 2020 presidential race.

"She made that decision, and I would have supported whatever she decided,” Emhoff told Marie Claire. "But I’m not her political adviser. I’m her husband. And so my role was to be there for her, to love her, to have her back, to talk it through, to help her.

"Our relationship and the way I roll, my whole life has just been to support the people I love unequivocally, and they support me. The whole thing has been based on parity and mutual respect."

Emhoff has also become an unofficial documentarian of all the history his wife has made, frequently posting bystander videos and images from the campaign trail.

He even has developed a following that uses the hashtag #Doughive in reference to Beyoncé's online following, the Beyhive.

"It’s a little surreal at times because it’s not like I’ve changed," he told Glamour. "I’m the same. I will say this, though: I have even more empathy for Kamala and more respect for her after being on this campaign. Whether it’s a full day of Zooms or a full day out on the trail, you really leave a piece of yourself out there. It’s intense. Even when I come back and I’m exhausted, and she’s like, 'See?'"

Whatever role Emhoff ends up taking in the White House, it will be an unprecedented situation, as Biden noted at his first joint press conference with Harris after selecting her as his running mate.

"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."