Who is Kamala Harris’ husband? Meet Douglas Emhoff, the lawyer who will be America’s first Second Gentleman

Danielle Zoellner
·4 min read
Related video: Kamala Harris made her first appearance on Wednesday as Joe Biden's running mate (AFP via Getty Images)
Related video: Kamala Harris made her first appearance on Wednesday as Joe Biden's running mate (AFP via Getty Images)

Vice-president elect Kamala Harris is already making history — becoming the first woman of colour to be elected to the role.

But she’s not the only one ticking off political firsts.

Her lawyer husband, Douglas Emhoff, will also take on a first for the country by becoming the first ‘second gentleman’ of the United States. And, in another first, he will take a role in the administration.

"Mr Emhoff is working with the Biden-Harris transition team to develop the portfolio he will focus on to support the work of the administration," a spokesperson for the transition team said, confirming that he was leaving his law firm.

Mr Emhoff heaped public praise on his wife as the Biden/Harris campaign celebrated election victory on 7 November, after an agonising days-long wait for key swing states to be declared.

“So proud of you,” he posted on instagram, sharing a picture of the couple embracing.

Mr Emhoff’s path to the White House has not been as clear cut as Ms Harris.

He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, before his father, who was a women’s shoe designer, moved their family to New Jersey. Another move when Mr Emhoff was a teenager then landed the family in Los Angeles, California.

That was where Mr Emhoff remained for undergrad and law school, as he attended California State University, Northridge and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

Following law school, he became an entertainment lawyer, representing famous clients including the Taco Bell Chihuahua and former Chicago Bears wide receiver Willie Gault.

He rose to become a partner at the DLA Piper law firm, which “represents large domestic and international corporations and some of today’s highest profile individuals and influencers in complex business, real estate and intellectual property litigation disputes,” according to his company profile.

Prior to meeting Ms Harris, the lawyer married his first wife, with whom he had two children with: Cole and Ella. The couple divorced but have said they “remain incredibly close” while co-parenting their children. Ms Harris has also formed a close bond with the children, who are both in their early 20s, and they lovingly call her “Momala” as a play on her first name.

The couple was brought together on a blind date by filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, who is known for his work on House Party and Django Unchained.

Mr Emhoff was at a business meeting with the filmmaker and his wife Chrisette, who is a close friend of Ms Harris, and they brought up the politician. At the time, Ms Harris was California’s attorney general.

Once Mr Hudlin mentioned Ms Harris’ name, her now-husband recalled she was an attorney general and said, “Oh my god, she’s hot”, according to NBC News.

He texted and called Ms Harris to set up a first date, a bold move the politician later called “endearing” in her 2019 memoir, The Truths We Hold.

“The morning after our first date, Doug emailed me with a list of his available dates for the next couple of months. ‘I’m too old to play games or hide the ball,’ the email read. ‘I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work,’” she wrote.

One year later, the couple was married in August 2014 in a small, intimate ceremony at the Santa Barbara courthouse.

It didn’t dawn on Mr Emhoff at the beginning of his relationship with Ms Harris that he could become immersed in the national political sphere.

“When we met, when she was attorney general, it was just two busy professionals at that age ... trying to balance 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.”

Initially, it looked like Ms Harris’ next step in politics following her work as California’s attorney general would be the state’s governor. But then Ms Boxer’s seat opened, which allowed her to pivot to the national stage.

“That was really ‘welcome to politics.’ In that race is when I really became a political spouse, doing events,” he said.

Mr Emhoff's took the role of the proud political spouse on with full force during the election campaign, by posting pictures of Ms Harris while on the campaign trail and selfies of the couple. When Ms Harris ran in the presidential race, he would often share pictures of himself wearing the campaign gear.

Now Mr Emhoff is preparing for his own role, as the nation’s first ever ‘second gentleman’, while his wife is trailblazing as the first ever female, Black and South Asian vice-president elect in US history.

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