Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during the San Francisco Black Newspaper's Anniversary Celebration on May 09, 2019 in San Francisco, California.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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01:32 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Sen. Kamala Harris on Friday picked up an endorsement from Rep. Alcee Hastings, an influential figure in Florida Democratic politics and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Hastings’ support makes this Harris’ third nod from a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, as she seeks to assemble a winning coalition of black voters throughout the South.

Harris, along with more than 20 other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, is heading to South Carolina this weekend to make a pitch to the state’s majority black primary electorate.

Currently serving his 14th term, the longest in Florida’s delegation, Hastings singled out Harris’ tax credit proposal, the LIFT act, and teacher’s pay proposal as drivers for his support. The Broward County Democrat said the former prosecutor has “delivered results for Americans at every level of government” in a statement to CNN.

“We live in historically troubling times and are in desperate need of leadership that exemplifies courage, conviction and moral clarity,” Hastings said, adding that Harris is “ready to solve for the issues that especially impact communities of color including access to quality and affordable healthcare.”

The state’s first African American elected to Congress since Reconstruction, Hastings could prove influential in organizing for Harris among black voters and around the southern tip of Florida, where she’s set to publicly campaign next week, for the first time since announcing in January, around the first presidential Democratic debates in Miami.

“Alcee is a career public servant and staunch voice for hardworking families and I’m proud to have his endorsement in this race,” Harris said. “I’m glad that he is joining this people-powered campaign in our fight to restore truth and justice in America and to build an economy that works for everyone.”

An early supporter of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 bid over then-Sen. Barack Obama, Hastings added that “Kamala Harris is the right choice to lead our nation.”

He follows Rep. Al Green, a Texas Democrat who threw his support behind Harris on Thursday.

Although the caucus itself will remain neutral, individual members are able to endorse whomever they choose.

The group’s political action committee can also back a candidate. In 2016, it supported Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont just days before the South Carolina primary and dispersed the lawmakers across the country to make the case for Clinton in states where the African American vote is essential.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the crowded 23-person Democratic field among black voters in national polling, now enjoys five endorsements from Congressional Black Caucus members: Reps. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, Al Lawson of Florida, Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware and Donald McEachin of Virginia.

Thursday, some African American lawmakers, like Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass of California and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, defended Biden after he lauded how effective and civil his time was working with segregationists in the Senate. The former vice president has sustained attacks from most of the Democratic field, most ardently from caucus members Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Harris.

Still, Hastings’ chief of staff, Lale Morrison, says the Florida Democrat’s backing was in the works far before Biden’s fallout.

“Congressman Hastings and Sen. Harris had been in communication with respect to his potential endorsement long before current news events pertaining to former Vice President Joe Biden,” Morrison said. “The congressman is proud to endorse Sen. Harris and looks forward to supporting her candidacy as our nation’s next president.”