It seems like just about everyone knew who Kamala Harris was even before she became the 2020 Democratic nominee for vice president. The former attorney general of California and one of the state’s two senators, Harris made a name for herself as a tough questioner who didn’t shy away from a confrontation. She is, without question, a force to be reckoned with.
When Harris ran her own presidential campaign, and later when she joined the Biden ticket, she seemed to make a point of introducing the world to her personal life. She started sharing cooking recipes, did on-camera interviews, and revealed her favorite curse word. And in a move that really opened her life up to the public, she introduced her husband, Doug Emhoff, to the masses.
Harris and Emhoff don’t have a traditional love story — he’d been married and divorced and he had two children from his previous marriage, while Harris had stayed mostly single for her adult life. The two created a blended family, got married in a small ceremony, and still look at each other like they’re the only person in the world that matters. So buckle in, because here’s the truth about Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff’s marriage.
Doug Emhoff was by Kamala Harris’ side when she dropped out of the presidential primary
Before she was a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, Kamala Harris was a no-fuss senator from California. A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Harris had gone viral a number of times for her hard line of questioning and her "get down to business" attitude. And she certainly brought that fire to the campaign and the debate stage, scoring a standout moment when she went toe-to-toe with none other than Joe Biden over the issue of school busing.
But Harris ultimately decided, that after garnering poorer primary performances than expected, to drop out of the presidential race — and Doug Emhoff was right by her side as she did so. "She made that decision, and I would have supported whatever she decided," Emhoff told Marie Claire in an interview. "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." Harris is such a steadfast politician, but we can only imagine how heavy the decision was to make. Luckily she had Emhoff in her corner.
Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff met after being set up on a blind date
Imagine being set up on a date. Imagine being set up on a blind date. Imagine being set up on a blind date with your state’s attorney general. Can’t? Well, it was something that Doug Emhoff was okay with, although we imagine he was pretty nervous.
As Emhoff revealed to Marie Claire, he and Kamala Harris were set up on, you guessed it, a blind date by their mutual friend, Chrisette Hudlin. Hudlin and Harris had been friends for a long time, and Hudlin met Emhoff through a work connection in 2013. "I was looking at him as more of a lawyer, but by the end of the meeting I was just liking him as a person," Hudlin said, revealing that Emhoff thought Harris was "really hot," after having briefly met her at a lawyer’s event. "He was complimenting her, and at the same time he was admiring her, and I liked that."
As Emhoff tells it, he sent Harris a very nervous "just saying hi!" text, and the rest is history.
Doug Emhoff proposed to Kamala Harris during a very unromantic conversation
We love a clumsy expression of love (it’s almost more enduring), and that was certainly the situation when Doug Emhoff proposed to Kamala Harris. According to The Washington Post, Emhoff had plans to pop the question when he and Harris were vacationing in Florence, Italy in March 2014 — a perfect proposal spot — but he jumped the gun and proposed when they were packing for the trip.
Harris wrote in her memoir, The Truths We Hold, that she really didn’t know what was happening until Emhoff said, "I want to spend my life with you," and immediately started crying. "These were not graceful Hollywood tears streaming down a glistening cheek," Harris wrote in her book. "No, I’m talking about snorting and grunting, with mascara smudging my face." Honestly, there’s something really lovely about such an honest proposal, taking place during a packing frenzy and while trying to figure out what to order for dinner (Harris didn’t know if she wanted shrimp or chicken pad thai). As noted by Marie Claire, the two were married in August 2014.
Kamala Harris Googled Doug Emhoff before their first date
We’ve all been told this: don’t Google the person you’re meeting for a date. Or maybe do it — stay alert out there, ladies! Kamala Harris clearly wanted to know what she was getting into, because she revealed while being interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning that she Googled Doug Emhoff before she met him, much to his surprise. "This is a reveal!" Emhoff said when she was asked about it on camera. "I’ve never been asked that. I did!" Harris admitted. "My best friend set us up on a blind date. And she said, ‘Just trust me…’ You know, she wanted me to just kind of go into it, and she said, ‘Don’t Google him.’ I did!"
From a Google search, Harris learned that Emhoff was a prominent entertainment lawyer in Southern California, and it’s safe to assume that he didn’t have to Google her to find out who she was. It just goes to show that years into a marriage, you can still find out juicy details about your partner; although, maybe Emhoff should’ve assumed that some Googling went into Harris’ decision making before meeting him for the first time.
Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff had a small courthouse wedding
Weddings of public figures can be a big deal. Just think of the royal weddings, or even the grandness of Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia, and her wedding that took place at the White House. Weddings can be a huge affair, but it seems like that was exactly the opposite of what Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff wanted, because their wedding was small, low-key, and attended by just a handful.
As noted by The Sacramento Bee in August 2014, Harris and Emhoff held the ceremony at the courthouse in Santa Barbara, a small beachside city located about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Harris, who was California’s attorney general at the time, kept things really on the down low and even had her sister, Maya Harris, officiate the ceremony.
The wedding came pretty quickly, too; Harris and Emhoff were only engaged for five months and the tight-knit feel of the wedding went hand in hand with their timeline. Hardly any publicity was done about the ceremony — it really was just a day about Harris and Emhoff. Love to see it.
From their very first date, Doug Emhoff was ready to commit to Kamala Harris
Commitment might scare some people, especially early on in a relationship. However, Doug Emhoff was ready to give Kamala Harris his all, even when their relationship was just starting out. Harris wrote in her memoir, The Truths We Hold, that the morning after their very first date, she woke up to an email from Emhoff, listing the upcoming dates and times that he’d be available. She noted that along with the calendar, he included a message. "I’m too old to play games or hide the ball," he revealed (via People). "I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work."
Clearly the two shared something special early on, because it worked. Since that very first date, Emhoff has been right by Harris’ side throughout her political campaigns, her time as a senator, her campaign for president, her nomination for the vice-presidential office, and, of course, her inauguration as the first female, first Black person, and first person of South Asian descent to become vice president of the United States. Good thing Emhoff made his intentions known right off the bat.
Kamala Harris does this sweet gesture on her wedding anniversary
Doug Emhoff’s nerves and excitement really took over when he started talking to Kamala Harris for the first time. He started things off with a text message, then the two messaged back and forth about basketball for a second, and the next morning, he called her. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Emhoff revealed that he called and left a "ridiculous voicemail," which we can only imagine was him stuttering through his excitement and intentions to take Harris out for a date.
That was all the way back in 2014, and to this day, Harris has that voicemail saved on her phone. And, here’s the kicker: she plays it back to him every year on their anniversary. "I thought I’d never hear from her again," Emhoff admitted when talking about the voicemail in question. "But it was just, it was adorable," Harris responded. "The thing about Doug is that he is exactly who he is. He’s just fully authentic and clear about the things he cares about. And it’s family, it’s his work…" "You," he added in. "And me!" she said. These two.
Doug Emhoff found support from other Senate spouses when Kamala Harris became a congresswoman
Being the spouse of a congressperson doesn’t sound like the easiest job in the world — there’s the balance of being supportive, managing your own life and career, and potentially being in the spotlight. And for Doug Emhoff, there also came the (very out of date) stigma of being the husband of a powerful woman. He revealed to CBS Sunday Morning that when Kamala Harris was elected to the Senate, he discovered what being a political plus-one was like, and relied on other Senate spouses for guidance. "There were Senate spouses who welcomed me," Emhoff recalled. "And I went to some, you know, lunches and events."
Additionally, when asked if there were "misters" in the group, Emhoff pointed to his mentors. "Amy Klobuchar’s husband, Elizabeth Warren’s husband, who kinda put their, you know, arms around me to show me the ropes," he said, referring to Warren’s husband, Bruce Mann, and Klobuchar’s husband, John Bessler. "There’re very few husbands that are Senate spouses. They do find each other," Harris added. So ladies, run for office, and men, support your ambitious partners. We need more "misters" as our senators’ plus-ones.
Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff are still in the "honeymoon" phase
It’s pretty clear to anyone remotely paying attention that Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff only have eyes for each other. They got married in 2014 and still act as in love as ever. And who, of all people, have picked up on just how much these two love each other? Emhoff’s kids, and Harris’ step kids, Cole and Ella. In an interview with The New York Times, Cole and Ella dished about their father and step-mom and just how committed they are to each other, a line of questioning that was probably pretty awkward.
Cole said that as a couple, Emhoff and Harris behave towards each other based on the setting. But for the most part, they’re inseparable. "Doug and Kamala together are like almost vomit-inducingly cute and coupley. I’m like, When is this going to wear off?" Cole admitted. And Ella only furthered the sentiment. "It’s so insane. It’s like the honeymoon phase forever. Like, the rest of the world gets to see it on social media, but we live that," she said. To be honest, we’re here for "honeymoon" Harris and Emhoff.
Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff’s marriage is supported by Emhoff’s ex-wife
Divorce is never fun to navigate, and it very often results in bad feelings and harbored resentment. But surprisingly, that wasn’t the case for Doug Emhoff and his ex-wife, Kerstin Emhoff; she told Marie Claire that she’s been in Doug’s corner, rooting for his success with Kamala Harris, since day one. "When [Doug and Kamala] first started dating and [Kamala] was [attorney general of California], I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool. Don’t mess this up!’" she admitted. And honestly, we love to see that.
Kerstin added yet another layer of support for her ex-husband and Harris later down the line by volunteering her professionalism and creative eye (she owns her own production company) to Harris during her presidential bid. According to Kerstin, the campaign staff was super surprised. "They were like, ‘The ex-wife wants to do what?’" she explained. But according to Kerstin and Doug’s son, Cole Emhoff, it wasn’t a surprising move on her part at all. Attention all divorced parents, please take this as a sign to try to get along as much as possible.
Doug Emhoff has provided this sweet service to Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris was sworn into office as California’s senator in 2017 by none other than then-Vice-President Joe Biden, with her husband, Doug Emhoff, in attendance. But he didn’t just watch her take the oath — he stood next to her, holding the Bible that she placed her hand on while swearing in — a very monumental experience, we can imagine. "I intend to fight for our state and all our families. I’ve got your back," Harris said after being sworn in, as noted by KPBS. And that’s a sentiment that Harris has since carried throughout her political career, and all the while, Emhoff has had her back.
According to People, Emhoff reprised his role from 2017 and joined Harris on the stage of the Capitol as she took the oath of office, becoming the United States’ first female vice president. Emhoff took a stand next to her, held the Bible, and she placed her hand on it in one of the most historically groundbreaking political moments of our lifetimes. It was really something to see, and we can only imagine just how proud Emhoff was of Harris
Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff do this together to de-stress
Life is stressful. You have to get up, feed yourself, feed your cat, get to work, and be productive. Then you have to think about cooking dinner, and remember that you forgot to get food out the freezer because it’s a mess. And we’re not lawyers or the vice president, so it’s safe to assume that our schedules are a lot less busy than Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff’s.
So what do these two do to relieve the pressures of their careers? They cook. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Harris revealed that cooking keeps them grounded and allows them to spend time together, although Emhoff is only the "sous chef." Emhoff piped in and said that he learned to cook during quarantine out of "necessity," but it’s become a big part of his life.
Harris, of course, now has a much bigger role in politics and won’t find as much time to join Emhoff for their nightly meals, but she’s determined to continue their tradition of Sunday family dinners. "It’s too much a part of our family life. And that’s important to me, to keep that stability," she said.
Doug Emhoff revealed that Kamala Harris helps him check his privilege
It’s not only amazing what you can teach your partner, but when you can really learn from them as well. That has been the case for Doug Emhoff, who revealed that his marriage to Kamala Harris has taught him so much about his own inherent privilege.
Emhoff, who is a white man of Jewish heritage, told Marie Claire that everyday actions — like going through airport customs, or interacting with security and law enforcement — are incredibly easy for him, an aspect of his life that Harris has highlighted. "She’ll say, ‘You realize that wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t a white dude?’" he explained, which honestly, we can absolutely hear her saying.
Emhoff continued by sharing that he’d always seen himself as a progressive and very open-minded person, but his marriage to Harris allowed him to open his eyes to aspects of his privilege that he hadn’t identified. "It’s great to be with her because she has such a great perspective and she’s certainly not shy about expressing [it]," he continued. We love to see it.
Doug Emhoff is Kamala Harris’s biggest fan
If one thing is clear about Doug Emhoff, it’s that he’s Kamala Harris’ biggest fan. Throughout her political career, he’s been by her side at campaign events, debates, swearing-in ceremonies, and everything in between. But it’s through his social media activity that Emhoff’s dedication to his wife really shines, and we’re absolutely here for it. In one post, Emhoff shared the sweetest photo of him and Kamala, his arms wrapped around her shoulders with the caption, "So proud of you," just after the results of the 2020 presidential race had been confirmed.
Digging a little deeper into Emhoff’s Instagram, however, shows the best kind of spouse support possibly ever. He shared a photo of himself while in the Las Vegas, Nevada airport holding up a Time magazine cover with Harris on it, with the caption, "Look who I ran into at the airport." Brb, crying. To add yet another example that is possibly more enduring than the last, Emhoff posted a photo of himself standing next to a cardboard cutout of Harris with the caption, "Miss you @kamalaharris!" accompanied by a red heart emoticon. How sweet!