By James Oliphant
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday picked up the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as he attempts to consolidate the support of the Democratic establishment behind his presidential bid.
The nod from Garcetti, who has been mayor of the nation’s second-largest city since 2013 and flirted with his own presidential run, was considered coveted ahead of the critical California primary in March.
“We need Joe Biden to bring our nation and world together during these most divided and dangerous times,” Garcetti said in a statement released by the campaign.
California holds its primary in the 2020 Democratic presidential nominating contest on March 3 and has the most delegates at play – 416 – of any state on the nominating calendar.
Polls have shown Biden, who leads in national surveys among Democrats, battling with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders for the lead in the country’s most-populous state. They are among 14 Democrats seeking the nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.
Along with Garcetti, who will serve as national co-chair of the Biden campaign, Biden has been working to woo supporters of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a Californian who dropped out of the presidential race in December.
To that end, Robert Garcia, the mayor of Long Beach, California, said on Thursday he had switched to Biden from Harris.
Moreover, on Thursday, the Biden campaign said Jonathan Henes, the former national finance director for Harris’ presidential run and a prominent New York bankruptcy lawyer, would begin raising cash for Biden.
Henes, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, raised money for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid.
Biden recently garnered the support as well of top Wall Street fundraisers Marc Lasry and Blair Effron, both former Harris supporters.
The Biden campaign also announced the endorsement of Martha Fuller Clark, a veteran New Hampshire lawmaker and deputy of the state party, who previously said she would remain neutral in the Democratic race.
The recent wave of support comes amid positive signs for Biden in the two early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where recent polls show him among the front-runners. Iowa holds the first contest on Feb. 3.
Biden, 77, who served two terms under Barack Obama, easily outpaces the rest of the Democratic field in party endorsements in his fight against progressive candidates Sanders and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.
(Reporting by James Oliphant and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Peter Cooney)