The Congressional Black Caucus political action committee Thursday endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic primary, a move that upset at least one black caucus member who is backing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ White House bid.
Clinton and Sanders are fighting for African-American votes for the Feb. 27 first-in-the-South Democratic primary and have rolled out major endorsements over the last several days.
While Clinton scored the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, Sanders’ campaign landed the endorsement of entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte on Thursday. Former NAACP President Ben Jealous endorsed Sanders last week. Award-winning African-American author Ta-Nehisi Coates said Wednesday that he’d vote for Sanders in the Democratic primary.
Thursday’s announcement riled Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders supporter who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Sanders is the only senator in the progressive caucus.
Meeks said that when the black caucus PAC voted on the endorsement, Sanders received no votes. He added that two members abstained from voting.
Ellison noted in tweets that Thursday’s endorsement is from the caucus’ political action committee, not the entire caucus, and claims that it was done without a full discussion among African-American lawmakers in Congress.
Clinton, in a statement, said she was honored to have the endorsement.
“The CBC PAC knows we need to elect a president who can take on all parts of the job and build on the progress we’ve made under President Obama – not let it get ripped away,” she said. “The stakes in this election couldn’t be higher. African-Americans can’t wait for solutions – they need results now.”
Speaking at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, black caucus PAC members said they’d decided to back Clinton over Sanders because she had a long history of addressing issues that were important to the African-American community.
“When we needed someone to come to rally Democrats, especially African-Americans, and at the request of the CBC PAC, Hillary Clinton has been there,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. “She’s been an outspoken person in regard to the empowerment of Democrats and the Democratic agenda in its entirety.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights icon who was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to 1966, took a dig at Sanders’ civil rights résumé.
Sanders was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organizer and participated in the August 1963 March on Washington, where the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Lewis said he’d never encountered Sanders during his work on civil rights issues.
“I never met him,” Lewis added.
African-American lawmakers who back Clinton are trying to portray Sanders as a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to issues pertinent to African-American voters.
“It’s only been in the last year that I’ve ever even heard Bernie say the word ‘black,’ ” Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, a former chair of the black caucus, said Wednesday. Clinton “been saying it for 40 years.”
Clinton and Sanders are looking to land one big endorsement in the Palmetto state – House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. He told CNN’s “New Day” Thursday that he’ll huddle with his family and political friends over the weekend and “make a decision as to what I will do, if anything.”
He told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that “Sen. Sanders has got a good record.”
“So does Hillary Clinton,” Clyburn added. “She has an excellent record.”