COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker has netted the first endorsement from a sitting lawmaker in the crucial early-voting state of South Carolina.
State Rep. John King told The Associated Press that he's chosen to back the senator from New Jersey above other hopefuls in the sprawling field in part because he feels that Booker's experience combating corruption as mayor of Newark will help him do the same for the country as president.
"He has spent his entire career running toward big challenges, so I sat long and hard and thought about who I wanted to support and who I feel would take this country in the right direction," King said. "Cory Booker is that guy."
Booker returns to South Carolina on Saturday for events in Columbia and Rock Hill, a city in King's district and where he planned to join him.
South Carolina holds the first presidential primary in the South, and its Democratic primary electorate is mostly black.
In his sixth term in South Carolina's House, King is past chairman of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. In an interview with the AP, he said that Booker's commitment to issues affecting that community, like sickle cell anemia , is something that will resonate with voters in the state in next year's primary.
"He's Cory. He doesn't care about a title," King said. "He wants people to know he's reachable, touchable and that he understands our struggles."
While no other South Carolina state lawmakers have publicly proclaimed their support for Booker, King said that he believes there are some ready to do so — soon.
Even though he's committing to backing Booker, King said he still planned to go out to meet contender Beto O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman who also is set to campaign in Rock Hill on Friday.
"I'm a fan of Democrats," King said. "And one of these people will be the next president of the United States."