WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the endorsement Monday of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, a widely admired black leader who had anguished over whether to back Sen. Barack Obama, her leading Democratic presidential rival.
The endorsement came as Clinton and Dellums toured a vocational classroom at Laney College in Oakland, where Clinton announced that Dellums will head her campaign's Urban Policy Committee.
The Clinton campaign spent months assiduously courting Dellums, a former U.S. Marine who served 27 years in Congress and once headed the powerful House Armed Services Committee. Dellums told associates he was excited by the energy of Obama's campaign, but he withheld his endorsement longer than many other black leaders.
But Clinton's willingness to embrace his recommendations on how to improve urban America, and her credentials on foreign and military affairs, won Dellums over.
"Oakland alone lacks the resources to enact this great vision of Oakland as a model city," Dellums told hundreds of students. "We needed strong leadership at the federal level, we needed partners at the federal level, we needed a federal urban agenda."
Clinton "has stepped forward to fashion a coherent, cogent, value-oriented, principled agenda for this country that she calls 'leave no city behind.' Isn't that incredible?" Dellums said.
Clinton promised: "Ron, I want you to know, that come January 2009, you will have a partner in the White House." She pledged as president to put more police officers on the streets, battle crime and enact sweeping health care reform.
Dellums and Clinton also have long-standing political ties. Dellums took over chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee when former President Bill Clinton chose Les Aspin to be his Defense secretary. As president, Bill Clinton visited California often and helped deliver government aid for such projects as expansion of the Port of Oakland.
Today, several veterans of Bill Clinton's White House work for Dellums in the mayor's office, including chief of staff David Chai.
Mrs. Clinton and Dellums met privately on the sidelines of the U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering in Los Angeles in June, and discussed how to address crime and violence in inner cities, aides to Dellums said.
They also talked about Dellums' work leading a group that last year examined the impact of U.S. policies on men of black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian descent.
The Dellums Commission, as it became known, found that flawed government policies and negative stereotyping of minority men have limited their economic opportunities.
The study found the news and entertainment media overrepresent minorities as criminals and whites as victims and law enforcers. And federal laws such as the No Child Left Behind Act have hurt minorities by driving good teachers from high-poverty schools to better-funded ones where whites are more highly represented, the report contended.
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, drew upon Dellums' findings as she crafted her own urban policy plan, her campaign said.
As chairman of the Urban Policy Committee, Dellums will advise Clinton "on issues critical to America's cities," the campaign said, including crime, high dropout rates, scarce well-paid jobs and lack of health care.
Clinton, Obama and the other candidates in the Democratic presidential field have long dueled for support and dollars among blacks, one of the party's key voter blocs. Independent polls in California and nationwide suggest the black vote is divided, largely between Clinton and Obama.