Fmr. Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee Not Backing Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Barbara Lee (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)
Hillary Clinton and Barbara Lee (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Far-left Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is refusing to endorse Hillary Clinton, exposing another split in Democratic ranks amid the 2016 primary race.

Nearly all members of the 46-person caucus, including the top leaders, are backing Clinton instead of Sen. Bernie Sanders. But the caucus itself has not formally endorsed Clinton.

A separate group, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, is formally backing Clinton. But the PAC’s board includes more lobbyists than legislators.

“I have not endorsed anyone,” Lee said Thursday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I will endorse when I feel that I can make a difference in electing a Democratic president.” Lee reportedly made a point to note that the PAC is distinctly different from the group of 46 federal lawmakers of which she is a member and which has yet to endorse either candidate.

The PAC’s endorsement is seen as an attempt to rally the black vote behind Clinton, instead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, before the February 27 South Carolina primary, where approximately 55 percent of the electorate is black.

The Chronicle indicates that a poll conducted by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist shows Clinton enjoying the support of 64 percent of likely primary voters and 74 percent of likely African American voters.

Among other issues she is looking at, Lee is reportedly seeing which candidate will focus on addressing gentrification in cities like Oakland, and involving more people of color in technology.

In addition to Lee, several leading black lawmakers have yet to endorse Clinton, including South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC). Meanwhile, Sanders has received the support of best-selling author and slavery reparations advocate Ta-Nehisi Coates, along with Erica Garner, daughter of the late Eric Garner, an unarmed man who died in a confrontation with police in New York in 2014.

Lee, who endorsed Barack Obama in 2007 before the Iowa caucuses took place, told the Chronicle “that was a different time. I felt then, given the fact that we were at the brink of a depression, that he was the right person for the right time. For me, that was the correct decision.”

Republican candidates and pundits have suggested that Clinton would be a continuation of Obama, referring to her candidacy as his “third term.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.