Doug Emhoff
Photo: Olivier DOULIERY/AFP

Doug Emhoff Biography

(1964–)
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Doug Emhoff is a lawyer and the husband of U.S. vice president-elect Kamala Harris.

Who Is Doug Emhoff?

Born in Brooklyn, Doug Emhoff attended schools in California before launching his legal career in 1990. He eventually became a partner at the leading firms of Venable and DLA Piper, representing powerful clients in a series of high-profile cases. Emhoff is also known for his marriage to vice president-elect Kamala Harris, which will make him the first husband and Jewish spouse of a U.S. vice president.

Early Life and Education

Douglas Craig Emhoff was born on October 13, 1964, in Brooklyn, New York, to parents Barbara and Mike, the latter a women's shoe designer.

The future lawyer spent much of his formative years in New Jersey with his older sister, Jamie, and younger brother, Andy, before moving with his family to California at age 17. He graduated from Agoura High School in 1982, the yearbook noting his contributions to the school paper and his participation in activities like tennis and skiing.

Emhoff went on to college at Cal State Northridge, earning a B.A. in communication studies, and completed his J.D. at the USC Gould School of Law in 1990.

Law Career

Emhoff began his legal career in 1990 as an associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and then Bingham McCutchen. Moving on to Belin Rawlings & Badal at the end of the decade, the young attorney achieved the rank of partner and enjoyed his first extensive taste of entertainment law through his work with Hollywood Video and the industry's studios.

He teamed with two colleagues to launch Whitwell Jacoby Emhoff in 2000, eventually convincing them to incorporate their commercial litigation practice into the larger firm of Venable LLP. Emhoff subsequently joined a high-profile lawsuit over the rights to the creation of the infamous Taco Bell chihuahua, and also represented pharmaceutical behemoth Merck, arms dealer Dolarian Capital and former NFL star Willie Gault in major cases. After helping to found Venable's San Francisco branch, he was named managing director of the firm's West Coast operations in 2015.

In 2017, Emhoff became a partner at DLA Piper with a focus on intellectual property in its media, sport and entertainment division. While not professionally connected to the firm's lobbying clientele, Emhoff took a leave of absence in August 2020 to head off potential conflicts of interest during wife Harris' vice-presidential campaign and announced his intention to leave Venable by Inauguration Day in January 2021.

First Marriage and Children

Emhoff married film producer Kerstin Mackin in 1992. They became parents to son Cole and daughter Ella, named after jazz greats John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald, before divorcing after 16 years together.

Marriage to Kamala Harris

A client and mutual friend set Emhoff up with Harris, then the attorney general of California, in 2013. The relationship progressed steadily, with Emhoff proposing in March 2014. They married at the courthouse at Santa Barbara, California, on August 22, 2014, with Harris' sister, Maya, officiating the proceedings that incorporated elements of traditional Hindu and Jewish ceremonies.

Harris has described how she quickly hit it off with Cole and Ella, who tagged her with the nickname of "Momala," and also became good friends with her husband's ex-wife, noting that their "modern family is almost a little too functional."

Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, pose on stage after the first Biden-Harris press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 12, 2020

Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff pose on stage after the first Biden-Harris press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 12, 2020

Campaigning and 2020 Election

While he's characterized himself as "not overly political," Emhoff was drawn into campaigning for his wife's 2016 U.S. Senate run. He became an invaluable fundraiser through his connections to leaders of the legal and entertainment industries, though Harris' refusal to investigate the alleged fraudulent practices of Herbalife, a company represented by her husband's firm at the time, raised eyebrows.

He was back in political spouse mode after Harris launched her unsuccessful bid for president in early 2019, along the way striking up a friendship with Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Democratic competitor Pete Buttigieg, and earning praise for helping to restrain the animal rights activist who confronted his wife on stage that June.

Emhoff hit the campaign trail in earnest after Harris became the running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in August 2020, drawing notice for his appearances with Jill Biden and his @DougHive social media presence. He was there to record his wife's celebratory call to Biden when their electoral win was announced on November 7, 2020 – a historic moment that made Harris the first woman, Black person and Asian American to ascend to her position, and Emhoff the first husband and Jewish spouse of a U.S. vice president.

Interests

Emhoff has served as a speaker for the nonprofit Association of Independent Commercial Producers and been involved in civic and charitable efforts in the areas of legal aid, social justice and child welfare.

He also enjoys partaking in golf and fantasy football and manages to hold his own as a sous-chef for his wife's culinary activities.

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