Associated Press – New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a liberal who is becoming a national voice on issues such as immigration, has endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for president.
The Puerto Rican-born Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, made the announcement Wednesday in an op-ed for El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico's largest newspaper. The speaker, one of the most prominent U.S. politicians of Puerto Rican descent, is traveling to her native island next week with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other New York elected officials.
"Hillary understands that we need to continue to drive our country forward and is fighting for causes I have devoted my career to," Mark-Viverito wrote in the piece.
Observers have suggested the speaker's endorsement could help solidify the candidate's support among Latinos, particularly Puerto Ricans who make up large voting blocs in some urban areas.
Mark-Viverito was a relatively obscure city council member just two years ago. She has risen to some prominence within the Democratic party, particularly on criminal justice reforms and immigration-related issues. She spearheaded the nation's largest municipal identification program, which allows illegal immigrants — and other groups such as the elderly and the transgendered — to obtain legal identification, a means to access city services.
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She's made regular appearances on cable TV news as the immigration debate in Washington heats up, and the city council has established a fund to help cover the legal fees of unaccompanied undocumented minors. In recent weeks, Mark-Viverito has urged Washington to step in and aid Puerto Rico, which is struggling under the weight of its debt. Clinton also has called for action.
"For Puerto Ricans — both on the island and throughout the diaspora — this election is the most important of our lifetime," Mark-Viverito wrote. "Hillary's plan has shown she is not just a friend to the island; she will stand up for it."
The former first lady and U.S. senator from New York is considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination but has been dogged by questions about her use of a private email account while working as the country's secretary of state. She's been locked in a tighter-than-expected race against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Mark-Viverito's endorsement also will renew focus on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a close Mark-Viverito ally who has yet to endorse a candidate in the race.
De Blasio, who is trying to position himself as one of the party's leading liberals, was widely expected to endorse Clinton, who employed him as campaign manager for her 2000 Senate bid. De Blasio also worked in Bill Clinton's presidential administration. But the mayor has steadfastly refused to offer his blessing, contending that he needs to hear more from other candidates, a move that has been criticized by Clinton supporters.