JACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) — Sen. Kamala Harris, the one-time Democratic presidential rival who took Joe Biden to task over his civil rights record, endorsed the former vice president on Sunday in his bid to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in November.
“I have decided that I am, with great enthusiasm, going to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States,” she said in a recorded message. “I really believe in him and I have known him for a long time.”
.@JoeBiden has served our country with dignity and we need him now more than ever. I will do everything in my power to help elect him the next President of the United States. pic.twitter.com/DbB2fGWpaa
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 8, 2020
The backing of the black senator, who clashed with Biden during the party’s early presidential debates, could give Biden a boost as he campaigns before the next round of presidential nominating contests, including the big prize of Michigan.
Harris said she would campaign for Biden on Monday in Detroit, which has a large African-American population.
“There is no one better prepared than Joe to steer our nation through these turbulent times, and restore truth, honor, and decency to the Oval Office,” Harris, a first-term senator from California and the state’s former attorney general, said in a statement.
What it means when Harris endorses Biden on video
One of the most talked-about moments of Harris’ presidential campaign was her blistering attack on Biden during a June presidential debate. She called his remarks about working with segregationist senators hurtful and questioned Biden’s 1970s opposition to school busing.
Still, black voters have backed Biden overwhelmingly, pushing him into huge gains in South Carolina’s presidential primary and on Super Tuesday last week. They will be crucial in Michigan, where they comprise almost 14 percent of the population and make up as much as 80 percent of some areas of Detroit.
Harris was considered a top-tier contender when she launched her quest for the presidency with a rally in Oakland, California, that drew 20,000 people, but her campaign ultimately struggled to build on early support and raise money.
A number of Harris backers switched their support to Biden after she dropped out of the race in December.
Biden has received a number of high-profile endorsements from establishment Democrats and his former rivals in the 2020 Democratic race, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat.
Like Harris, both are moderate Democrats.
Jesse Jackson backs Sanders
Biden, 77, campaigned in Mississippi and his progressive opponent Bernie Sanders, 78, the Independent senator from Vermont, was in Michigan as they battle for voters before six state contests on Tuesday.
Sanders garnered his own endorsement on Sunday from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader who is well known especially among older African Americans.
Sanders lags Biden in support among black Americans.
“With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States and our needs are not moderate,” Jackson said in his statement.
“A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path. The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path.”
Jackson planned to speak at a campaign event with Sanders in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Sunday.
After Biden’s Super Tuesday victories, the stakes are high for Sanders in the battle to win Michigan, a state he captured during his 2016 run for the Democratic nomination.
Jackson has been a leader of the U.S. civil rights movement since the mid-1960s, and was with Martin Luther King when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.
He twice sought the Democratic presidential nomination himself and has acted as an emissary to secure the release of Americans held abroad.
In addition to Michigan, Washington state, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho will be holding primary elections on Tuesday. North Dakota will hold caucuses.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Frances Kerry and Lisa Shumaker)