WASHINGTON — Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver has made an endorsement in the 2020 democratic presidential primary.
Cleaver announced his endorsement for front-runner Joe Biden Thursday.
“As a pastor, my values, morals, and faith have been a guiding light throughout my life and time in public service,” Cleaver said in a news release. “From becoming the first African-American Mayor of Kansas City to becoming a member of Congress, my strong convictions have given me the foundation necessary to fight for jobs, economic development, and housing reform for the people of Missouri. In the same manner, Joe Biden’s convictions have led him to fight for what he believes in and to serve not only the people of Delaware but the nation.”
Cleaver’s announcement comes at the same time as another endorsement for the former Vice President. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, endorsed Biden as well.
The decisions from Butterfield and Cleaver also come as a potential blow to Sen. Kamala Harris of California, one of two black major Democratic candidates along with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. Harris still leads Biden in total Black Caucus endorsements, but she’s struggled to establish herself as a top-tier candidate alongside Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Cleaver said he “struggled” with the choice, alluding to Booker and Harris when he said that “there are others that I’m closer to” than Biden. “I have nothing negative to say about them at all. I hugged both of them Saturday night” at the CBC gala, Cleaver said of the two black senators.
“Warren and Sanders cannot win North Carolina,” Butterfield said, because their policies veer too far left. “I have great respect for both of them, but they cannot win North Carolina. Joe Biden can.”
Cleaver echoed that sentiment in an interview with the Associated Press.
“I told him, ‘If you are the nominee, you have to campaign everywhere; you cannot surrender any geography to Mr. Trump,” Cleaver said, recalling a recent conversation he had with Biden. “He assured me he will not do that.”
Cleaver also pushed back on criticism Biden has faced on issues of race, particularly the crime bill, which many blame for mass incarceration.
“I supported the crime bill,” Cleaver said. “We had the Crips and the Bloods, a Jamaican gang … crack cocaine had exploded.”
Echoing a point Biden has made on the campaign trail, Cleaver said most of the Congressional Black Caucus supported the bill, along with nearly all black mayors from large cities, despite the bill’s sentencing measures that are now so heavily criticized. “Ministers, politicians, mayors, city council members were all screaming, ‘Let’s do something!'” Cleaver said.
“Millennials don’t remember that history. … Joe Biden — and I’ve told his people this — should not apologize for that.”