Second Gentleman.

It’s a unique and rather awkward official title that Doug Emhoff – the husband of the nation’s first woman vice president, Kamala Harris – bears, but it appeared to be one with which he’s come to enjoy as he stumped in Raleigh on Tuesday for his wife’s and President Biden’s reelection in November.

Emhoff’s seemed comfortable and at-home as he spoke to a gathering of 200 or so in the steamy back parking lot of Southeast Raleigh’s Word of God Church during an informal Juneteenth celebration that featured food trucks, vendors, children’s games, and performances by an elementary school chorus.

In his remarks, Emhoff pulled no punches in characterizing the fall contest with presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Using the holiday and its celebration of freedom as a starting point, Emhoff said that “everything is at stake” in the fall election and that it is imperative for African Americans to help “stop Trump and his MAGA allies in their tracks.”

After reading a long list of what he described as Biden-Harris administration accomplishments – record low Black unemployment, a doubling of Black-owned small business starts, the appointment of the Supreme Court’s first Black woman justice, the enactment of the nation’s first new gun safety legislation in three decades, the largest federal investment in HBCU’s in U.S. history, a $35 monthly cap on insulin prescriptions, historic investments in broadband and lead pipe removal – Emhoff said “all this goes away if Trump and his MAGA allies win.”

In blasting what he described as Trump’s “nod, nod, wink, wink” relationship with the white supremacy movement and its adherents, Emhoff said the plight of all Americans “will be even worse” that it was during Trump’s first term if he is elected in the fall, and that voters have four-and-a-half months to “save our democracy, save our world, and our very way of life.”

Emhoff was preceded to the stage by a collection of local and national Democratic politicians.

Gov. Roy Cooper signs a Juneteenth proclamation
Gov. Roy Cooper signs a Juneteenth proclamation, while Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Democratic National Committee Chairman Jamie Harrison, Congresswoman Deborah Ross, and a group of Wilson County elementary school students and their music teacher look on. (Photo: Rob Schofield)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper spoke in similarly urgent terms about the fall election – saying it represents “critical juncture for the state and country.” Before signing a Juneteenth proclamation while surrounded by a group of elementary school students of color from Wilson County, Cooper said, “We celebrate freedom [of Juneteenth] today, but the fight for freedom was not over then and is not over now.”

Other speakers included:

  • Durham state Senator Natalie Murdock, who served as the event’s emcee,
  • Wake County School Board member and Democratic Party nominee for the state House of Representatives, Monika Johnson-Hostler, who read a Juneteenth proclamation from the Wake County Board of Commissioners,
  • Democratic National Committee chairman Jamie Harrison, who called for the audience to “fight back against evil forces” and to champion “hope and progress over hate and division,” and
  • Wake County Congresswoman and former State Representative Deborah Ross, who reminded the audience of how her late former colleague, Rep. Larry Womble of Forsyth County, had long fought to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday long before it was officially recognized.

While Juneteenth is now an official federal holiday, it remains merely optional for North Carolina state government employees and is not one that the GOP leadership of the General Assembly has chosen to celebrate. A few miles northwest of today’s event, business proceeded as usual during a busy day at the state Legislative Building, where several committee meetings took place and consideration of the GOP-authored state budget proposal was scheduled for a House floor debate during the afternoon.