Bernie Sanders on Monday picked up the endorsement of the lawyer representing the family of Walter Scott, the black man killed by police in North Charleston, South Carolina last April.
Justin Bamberg, who is also a state representative, initially supported Clinton in December, but said he switched his endorsement to Sanders after getting to know the Democratic presidential candidate better and taking a closer look at his criminal justice plan.
It’s one of Sanders' most significant African-American endorsements yet, and in the first-in-the-south primary state of South Carolina, where Sanders has been trying to eat into Clinton’s prodigious lead.
“Hillary Clinton is more a representation of the status quo,” Bamberg told The New York Times, which first reported the news. “Bernie Sanders on the other hand is bold. He doesn’t think like everyone else. He is not afraid to call things as they are.”
Sanders hails from the nearly all white state of Vermont and has struggled to win over African-Americans, one of the most loyal and largest voting blocs in the Democratic coalition. Sanders has worked hard to introduce himself to black voters, but Clinton’s campaign is still seen as having a “firewall” of support in states with large minority populations, especially in the South, that could stop Sanders even if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire.
Clinton recently earned the backing of the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Jordan Davis, three other black men killed by police in high-profile incidents that sparked protests and national debate on race and policing.
Bamburg could be a powerful validator for Sanders among black voters in the South, many of whom are still unfamiliar with the Vermont senator. Sanders has been adding a roster of African-American surrogates, including former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner and provocative academic Cornel West.
"He has spent decades passionately addressing issues that matter to the residents of the Palmetto state and I am proud to join the political revolution,” Bamburg said of Sanders.