As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders aggressively court black leaders ahead of primary contests in South Carolina and other Southern states, the number-two Democrat in the Georgia state Senate flipped his endorsement from Clinton to Sanders Tuesday.
The two Democratic presidential candidates are holding dueling events throughout the day Tuesday, with Clinton meeting with black leaders in New York City ahead of a major speech on race there while Sanders attended a prayer breakfast with black ministers in South Carolina before a visit to Morehouse, a historically black college in Atlanta.
Both campaigns have been rolling out numerous endorsements from African-Americans leaders and activists in recent days. While Clinton has the clear edge in black endorsements, including the support of the campaign arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, Sanders has picked up some notable activist backers, like the daughter of Eric Garner, the black man killed by police on Staten Island last year while selling cigarettes.
President of the National Action Network and MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton, whom Clinton met with Tuesday morning, told reporters he is not planning to endorse either candidate at the moment.
Meanwhile, Sanders earned the support of Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort, who held an event for Clinton just a few weeks ago. “After months of looking at Bernie’s record and studying his positions on healthcare, Wall Street, predatory lending and the minimum wage, I came to the conclusion that Bernie’s position on the issues that affect my constituents in Georgia the most conform most closely to my positions,” Fort told The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Georgia is one of seven Southern states to hold primaries on March 1, also known as Super Tuesday, which comes just days after South Carolina's primary. Clinton is expected to perform well in the South thanks to her deep roots among African-American voters.
Fort’s endorsement has become part of larger proxy fight between the state senator and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, whom Fort is considering a run to replace. Reed, who supports Clinton along with most of the state’s elected Democrats, responded sharply to the news that his rival had switched sides to Sanders. “Please retweet if you are not surprised by Fort's latest political stunt,” Reed tweeted. Last week, he called Fort “one of the most disappointing human beings I’ve ever seen.”
Sanders has seen several black politicians abandon Clinton for him, such as South Carolina State Rep. Justin Bamberg and former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, both of whom have seen their profiles rise as prominent surrogates for Sanders.
Erica Garner, Eric Garner's daughter, and Bamberg, who is also the lawyer representing the family of Walter Scott, another man killed in police custody, campaigned with Sanders Tuesday in South Carolina.