December 2, 2020

Who is Douglas Emhoff? Meet Kamala Harris’s Lawyer Husband

11 min read

The announcement that California Sen. Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 presidential election was history-making on several accounts. Harris is both the first Black woman and first Asian American to run for vice president. And if elected, her husband Douglas Emhoff, 56, would become the first Second Gentleman of the United States.

Since Harris’s bid for the presidency, which ended last December, Emhoff has become known as one of the most supportive political spouses. The entertainment lawyer, whom Harris met on a blind date in 2013, quickly broadcast his excitement for his wife’s nomination on social media. “America, let’s do this!” he wrote alongside a photo of Biden and Harris on Twitter.

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After reading up on Harris’s policies, learn 11 facts about Emhoff, whose children Cole and Ella call Harris “Momala.” Find out why he won’t be Harris’s political adviser, should she be elected. Plus, see the social media banter Emhoff has exchanged with potential future First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

Emhoff is an entertainment lawyer.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Emhoff made his way to California for college. He attended the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law in 1990 and is currently a partner at DLA Piper Law Firm. He splits his time between California and D.C., and documented his swearing-in ceremony for the D.C. bar alongside Harris in 2017.

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According to his company’s website, Emhoff “is known for tackling and resolving the toughest problems—whether by aggressively litigating high-stakes cases in the public glare or acting as a trusted advisor behind the scenes.” He specializes in “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.”

A 2019 Hollywood Reporter profile of Emhoff notes his involvement in a case litigating use of Taco Bell’s “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” chihuahua. “With all this other stuff that’s happening in my life right now, it’s great to have [my practice] because it’s something that I love and I’m good at,” he told the outlet.

Emhoff is currently taking a leave of absence from the firm while he campaigns for the Biden/Harris ticket.

Emhoff has inspired his own #DougHive with supportive social media messages.

Emhoff has long been supportive of Harris both on and off social media. “I’m doing everything I can to help Kamala with the campaign, whether on Twitter, attending events, or rallying the team behind the scenes, all while keeping up with my full-time day gig as a lawyer, all while keeping our relationship and family first,” Emhoff told Refinery29 in 2019. “Date night definitely looks a little different these days, but we are still trying to maintain our ‘coupledom’ by enjoying whatever time we have together, even if it’s on the trail, and always with a sense of humor.”

Case in point: last June, Emhoff wrotem “Dear ⁦@KamalaHarris: I love you, I believe in you, and I’m so proud of you. The whole country is going to see what I get to see everyday. You are amazing” alongside two hearts.

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He’s also been known to sport some Kamala Harris merch:

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And when Harris announced the end of her presidential campaign on December 3, Emhoff posted a black-and-white of himself holding her with the caption, “I’ve got you. As always.”

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Emhoff jumped to Harris’s defense on June 1, 2019, when he helped remove a protestor who approached Harris onstage and took her mic during her MoveOn Big Ideas Forum speech. Afterwards, #DougHive assembled at unprecedented numbers on Twitter, leading Emhoff to tweet, “Thx for all the kind notes. We are good. I love ⁦@KamalaHarris and would do anything for her.”

He has two children, Cole and Ella, from a previous marriage.

Emhoff has two children with his ex-wife Kerstin. In a Mother’s Day 2019 essay for ELLE, Harris pointed out that his kids were named Cole after jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and Ella after Ella Fitzgerald. Harris wrote that initially, she was nervous about meeting the children as a kid of divorced parents herself. “As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people,” said. “And I was determined not to insert myself in their lives until Doug and I had established we were in this for the long haul. Children need consistency; I didn’t want to insert myself into their lives as a temporary fixture because I didn’t want to disappoint them. There’s nothing worse than disappointing a child.”

But while Harris may have had “butterflies” about meeting Cole, a graduate of Colorado College, and Emma, a Fine Arts student at Parsons School of Design, there was no need to worry. “Cole and Ella could not have been more welcoming,” Harris wrote for ELLE. “They are brilliant, talented, funny kids who have grown to be remarkable adults. I was already hooked on Doug, but I believe it was Cole and Ella who reeled me in.” A few years after Harris and Emhoff married, they decided against “stepmom” as her moniker and instead opted for “Momala.”

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Harris wrote that she and Emhoff’s ex Kerstin “hit it off ourselves and are dear friends,” adding, “She and I became a duo of cheerleaders in the bleachers at Ella’s swim meets and basketball games, often to Ella’s embarrassment. We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional.”

Kerstin, founder of the production company Prettybird, confirmed her bond with Harris to Marie Claire. “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 recalled.

He’s Jewish.

Emhoff has been branded a “Hot Jewish Dad Crush” on the internet and references his faith on social media. During Rosh Hashanah last month, he shared a photo of himself, Harris, Cole, and Ella in honor of the holiday. “This Rosh Hashanah, I’m re-committing myself to do everything I can to help heal our nation & repair the world. My new year’s wish is that you will join me. From my family to yours, Shana tova! P.S. throwback pic of the fam when we could all be together — miss you, love you,” he captioned the snap.

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Emhoff first met Harris on a blind date.

The pair was introduced by one of Harris’s friends, PR consultant Chrisette Hudlin, per THR. The set-up happened a few years after Emhoff’s divorce and while Harris was serving as attorney general of California. Hudlin recently told Marie Claire that she met Emhoff through work and decided to set the pair up when he recalled meeting Harris at a lawyer function. “And he said something to the effect of ‘She’s really hot,’” Hudlin remembered, adding, “He was complimenting her, and at the same time he was admiring her, and I liked that. I thought, Oh, what’s your deal?

After their first date, Emhoff reportedly emailed Harris the next morning and confessed, “I really like you.” He proposed one night while Harris was deciding whether to have chicken or shrimp pad thai for dinner. They were engaged after a year of dating, on March 27, 2017, per the the San Francisco Chronicle.

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This year, the couple celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary.

“I don’t believe in long engagements,” Harris told the Chronicle shortly after the proposal. Sticking true to her word, the couple was married about four months later at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, per the outlet. August 22, 2020 marked six years since their courthouse wedding, which included a cellist, personal vows, and Harris’s sister Maya officiating. (Maya is also a civil rights lawyer and worked on both Harris and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.)

In August, Emhoff commemorated their sixth wedding anniversary, writing on Instagram, “Dearest Kamala: here’s to us, our family, friends and our beautiful life together. Wouldn’t change a thing. Happy Anniversary! Love, D.”

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He’s a man of many hobbies.

When he’s not on the campaign trail or practicing law, Emhoff has several side passions. Harris herself has referred to her husband as her “favorite sous-chef,” a nod to his culinary talents. Vogue has also reported on Emhoff’s love for golf, fantasy football, and Nirvana. He’s also joked about his dance skills on the campaign trail, tweeting at San Fransisco Pride 2019, “If I can do these dad moves with my dad bod, then hopefully you all can help @KamalaHarris finish 2Q fundraising as strong as possible!”

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He’s built a friendship with Jill Biden on the campaign trail.

Shortly after the announcement that Harris had been selected as Biden’s VP candidate, Jill Biden tweeted, “Hey @DouglasEmhoff. Are you ready?” Emhoff gamely responded, “Ready to work! Let’s go @DrBiden!” Another high-profile political spouse, Chasten Buttigieg (husband of Pete) replied, “I love this so, so much.”

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Harris spoke to Jill and Emhoff’s friendship in an interview with People. “To be the spouse of a candidate, that’s tough duty,” she told the outlet. “I think that their bond is about that they can genuinely like each other and have that friendship and can do it together.” Biden confirmed, “Doug and Jill already were buddies, for real” even before he chose Harris as his running mate. “During the debates, we’d be going at each other—they’re just laughing,” Biden explained. “Right, sitting there laughing,” Harris replied. “We’re looking down like, ‘How’d I do?’ And they’re just chatting with each other.”

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He’s bonded with other first spouses.

Emhoff has forged friendly relationships with several significant others of fellow democratic presidential candidates, exchanging social media banter and posting selfies with Buttigieg as well as Bruce Mann, husband of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

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“You forge these relationships, kind of apolitically, because you’re sharing something that’s very unique,” Emhoff told Politico in a piece about the “potential First Gentlemen.” He added, “This campaign is so intense that you can’t really share this experience with anyone other than someone else who’s going through it.”

He’s also feeling the WFH struggle.

These days, Emhoff is fully committed to campaigning for Biden/Harris. That means virtual fundraisers, canvassing alongside Jill Biden, and navigating working from home alongside his spouse. “Imagine working from home with Kamala Harris, during a pandemic and all the other issues going on,” he told Marie Claire for a recent profile. “She just works hard, and she’s relentless.…It’s just incredible how much she does. And I’m looking over and she’s looking [back] and she goes, ‘What are you doing, Dougie? You working? And I say, ‘Yep! Yes, honey.’”

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When they need to decompress from a day of work, Emhoff says he and Harris indulge in a Marvel movie or one of Netflix’s “90-minute cute rom-coms” such as Love, Guaranteed.

He won’t be a political adviser if Biden/Harris are elected.

Although Emhoff has been a major presence on the campaign trail, he won’t become an official political adviser, should Harris be elected. “I’m her husband, that’s it,” Emhoff told People in a joint interview with Harris. “She’s got plenty of great people giving her political advice. I’m her partner, I’m her best friend and I’m her husband. And that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to have her back.”

The outlet notes that Emhoff does have ideas for what his role as Second Husband would entail, but he remains focused on the election itself. “Right now, I’m just thinking about, let’s get through this election and let’s win this election,” he said. “There are things that I’m really passionate about—including justice and access to justice. But I really just want to focus on winning this election.”

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