WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, has secured the backing of two prominent Louisiana Democrats — New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno and Baton Rouge State Rep. Ted James — in her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

It's Louisiana's second high-profile foray into the combative race for the presidential nomination that has prompted more than two dozen Democrats to launch campaigns. More could be coming as presidential contenders angle to beef up their bonafides across the country before voters head to the polls for state primaries early next year.

"Having Louisiana voices guiding presidential campaigns, especially this early in the contest, makes sure that our unique needs will not be forgotten," said Louisiana Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson, a state senator from New Orleans. "We strongly encourage Democrats to get involved with several campaigns right now and make your support known."

Harris' campaign announced Thursday that Moreno, a former state House member who is the first Latina to hold the council president title in New Orleans, and James, who is vice chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, will serve as co-chairs of her efforts in Louisiana.

“Kamala Harris is just the type of bold, courageous leader our country needs and I couldn’t be prouder to endorse her for President,” Moreno said in a statement. “I'm inspired by Kamala's commitment to building coalitions and connections that unite us around priorities that America needs to work for all people, not the just the wealthy and well-connected."

James, who is in his third term in the state House, said he believes Harris has the qualities needed to address a "paralyzing divisiveness" in the country.

“Kamala has spent the balance of her life fighting to ensure everyone has equal and adequate access to health care, fair wages and safe communities," he said. "Louisianans, and Americans across the country, can count on her to be their champion in the White House, and I'm proud to endorse her for president of the United States.”

The endorsements come ahead of Harris’ planned swing through the South with stops in Alabama and South Carolina, and as the broad field looks to woo Democrats in the region.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, overwhelmingly won Louisiana in the 2016 general election, but both Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held rallies in the state in the run-up to the primary.

Last week, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans, is the first in a slate of national co-chairs for his 2020 campaign. Richmond, a former Congressional Black Caucus chairman, is expected to serve as a key adviser to Biden's efforts in the South.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the lone Democrat in a statewide office in Louisiana, hasn't signed onto any of the campaigns. He's running for reelection to a second term this fall. 

Louisiana has 50 delegates up for grabs in the Democratic primary, which is currently scheduled for March 7 but is being rescheduled April 4 pending the governor's authorization — a move that could potentially bolster the state's standing as the large Democratic field winnows.

Louisiana Democratic Party executive director Stephen Handwerk said the change is needed because of conflicting state law.

"We are excited for the new April 4, 2020 primary," he said. "Looking how the calendar is shaping up nationally this would ensure that the candidates who are still competing in our primary, and we believe there will still be several, will provide for at least four days of candidates touring the state and talking with our voters directly."

It also gives the state a bigger stake in the ultimate nominee, as the DNC has decided to award states a 10 percent bonus in delegates if they hold their primaries in April, instead of the packed month of March, Handwerk noted.

Harris, a former attorney general of California and San Francisco prosecutor, is among several presidential candidates who have already made stops in Louisiana in the run up to 2020. Harris, 54, has been to Louisiana twice since announcing her campaign, most recently in New Orleans in April to speak at the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's south central regional conference.

Meanwhile, Trump recently was feted at a fundraiser in suburban New Orleans that reportedly raised millions for his re-election effort.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.