Sen. Kamala Harris of California has added a fourth Congressional Black Caucus member to her list of endorsements from its influential members: Rep. William Lacy Clay.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has five endorsements from the caucus, as the 2020 Democratic hopefuls jockey for its members’ support.
“I have nothing against Vice President Biden,” Clay said to CNN in an interview. “When he was in office with President Obama, we had a great relationship. We have a great personal relationship. But this is my choice. This is who I feel like I can get behind. She has the skill set to beat Trump and replace him in the Oval Office.”
Clay is a well-known and influential figure in Missouri. In May 2007, he endorsed then-underdog Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, helping to deliver the votes of predominately African American precincts in his district to Obama. Clinton and Obama split the delegates in the neck-and-neck Missouri primary.
“Like Obama, I feel as though Kamala Harris is a transformative figure,” Clay said to CNN, explaining the timing of his endorsement. “I think the timing is right to signal to the people in my state — this is who I favor.”
Clay, who represents the racially diverse St. Louis area, is the first elected Missouri official to endorse in the Democratic presidential primary, and he marks Harris’ first Congressional Black Caucus endorsement in the Midwest. Harris also has the caucus endorsements of Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Al Green of Texas and Alcee Hastings of Florida.
Clay, the longest-serving Democrat in Missouri’s congressional delegation, is the son of William Lacy Clay Sr., a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“I’m incredibly honored to have Lacy Clay’s support,” said Harris in a statement. “Lacy’s passion for service was inherited from his father and now lives on in his tireless advocacy for the equity and opportunity of all Americans. I look forward to working with him to lift up their voices through this campaign and from the White House.”
Biden, the front-runner among African American voters in national polling, spent the end of last week and the weekend fending off scrutiny from fellow presidential candidates Harris and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. Booker and Harris criticized Biden after he pointed to working with two late segregationist senators during a time that Biden said “there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything.”
Booker called on Biden to apologize for those comments, while Harris said Biden was speaking of individuals “who made and built their reputation on segregation.”
Clay said the controversy had no bearing on the timing of his endorsement. He also told CNN he does not believe that Democratic voters will decide on their candidate based on age or generational concerns.
“I believe the majority of Democratic voters want to be comfortable with who can take on Trump and beat him,” said Clay. “For me, Kamala is that candidate.”