WASHINGTON — All four black Texas Democrats in Congress went to bat in a big way Thursday for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton amid her increasingly hostile nomination fight with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
The four were key players in a morning endorsement of Clinton from the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee, the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, a powerful bloc of mostly Democratic black U.S. lawmakers.
The nod was timed for maximum effect ahead of the Feb. 27 South Carolina Democratic primary — about 28 percent of South Carolina’s population is black. Clinton needed the boost, just two days after her bruising 22-point loss to Sanders in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
The Texas CBC members — U.S. Reps. Al Green of Houston, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth — had previously endorsed Clinton, but all attended a news conference laying out the broader endorsement from CBC PAC.
“Hillary Clinton has made friends with the black community long before needing them now,” said Green, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
Jackson Lee also spoke, aiming to distance CBC members from the “establishment” label. All four members looked on as U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia — a venerated Civil Rights hero — tore into Sanders.
Veasey followed up late in the day with a written statement, calling Sanders “wrong on the issue of health care,” and asserting that Sanders would push back progress on the Affordable Care Act.
"We must not turn back from the progress made by the Obama administration," the statement read.
But the CBC endorsement did not include all of its caucus members. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota backs Sanders, while U.S. Rep. Mia Love, a Republican from Utah, endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., last year.
Ellison expressed ire on Twitter over the group’s public move.
“Cong'l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential. Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me,” he wrote.
A Sanders spokesman declined to comment.
During Clinton's 2008 nomination campaign against then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the CBC was at the center of the painful intra-party delegate fight. Many members at the time turned on Clinton, despite long alliances with her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
That is not the case this year, with the exception of Ellison.
Electioneering influence aside, the support matters because every Democratic sitting member of Congress is a superdelegate with a vote at the party's nominating convention.
Clinton currently dominates that sector of the party. But the Sanders camp is working over superdelegates, and his aides say a strong Sanders turnout in Texas will help them make their case after the state’s March 1 primary.
Beyond delegate counting, black Democratic congressmen and women are known to be effective advocates to black constituencies on behalf of white allies — especially in churches.
“CBC members are some of the most committed and tireless campaigners and will do everything from headlining campaign and fundraising events, to visiting churches, to cutting radio ads and recording robo-calls,” said Democratic consultant Doug Thornell, a former CBC spokesman and a national party operative with extensive congressional race experience.
“Clinton is lucky to have their support," he said. "It sends a symbolic message to folks that she gets it and that she isn't a Johnny come lately — she's been there fighting with us in the tough battles.”