Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has secured an endorsement from Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, whom she worked with for four years in Barack Obama's administration.
The former attorney general said in a statement provided to Clinton's campaign that the former secretary of state "is the candidate that we need in the White House" to continue "the progress of President Obama," the Associated Press reported.
Holder, a close confidant of the president, retired from the Justice Department in February 2015 after a stormy near six-year tenure at its helm and returned to corporate practice at the white-show law firm of Covington & Burling. He is the latest official from the ranks Washington, DC's upper political echelons to endorse the former secretary of state, following a wave of support from members of Congress, the party's superdelegates, who will be instrumental at its nominating convention, and other senior elected officials.
Holder will now stump with the former secretary of state as she campaigns in the three weeks leading up to the start of the primary season, which will determine who the Democratic and Republican nominees for the presidency will be.
Holder's endorsement and his visibility on the campaign trail, especially in the early primary state of South Carolina, could help shore up key support for Clinton among the African-American community as her lead over rival Bernie Sanders narrows. According to current preference polls, Clinton is overwhelmingly favored by black voters, particularly in South Carolina, where she is currently leading by roughly 40 percentage points.
South Carolina will hold its primary on February 27. Polls in the predominantly white early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire show the candidates neck-to-neck, with some even projecting Sanders as having an edge over Clinton. Clinton campaign strategists hope that she can maintain enough of a lead among black voters in southern states to secure the nomination as the primaries progress.
In his statement, Holder said that Clinton "has bold plans to address police brutality" and "fight for common sense reforms to our gun laws" — issues that are particularly significant to black voters.
In 2015, the Palmetto state was rocked particularly by two incidents that highlighted the desire for drastic policy changes in both of these areas. The fatal police shooting of unarmed black man Walter Scott last April and a white supremacist's massacre of nine black churchgoers in June sparked a series of protests over systemic racial discrimination. The latter incident also ignited a nationwide debate over the symbolism and display of the Confederate flag — an emblem that was embraced and flaunted by the gunman who opened fire on congregants as they participated in a bible study.
This election, gun control has been a defining point of differentiation between the top two Democratic nomination hopefuls. Clinton has recently sought to position herself as the candidate who is tougher on gun laws than her rivals and has attacked Sanders on his voting record on gun control measures, including his 2005 vote for legislation that shielded gun makers from lawsuits.
Clinton and Sanders have both had run-ins with the Black Lives Matter protest movement early in the 2016 election cycle, which they have sought to remedy with a series of meetings with BLM and other activists who are engaged in an ongoing nationwide campaign against police brutality and biased law enforcement practices.
Activists and advocacy groups have also pressured 2016 candidates to address the excesses of America's sprawling criminal justice system, including mass incarceration, overcrowded jails, and poor prison conditions, among other issues.