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Representative for Louisiana's 2nd congressional district Congressman Cedric Richmond introduces Senator Elizabeth Warren at Dillard University's Georges Auditorium in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. Congressman Cedric Richmond moderated a discussion with Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, as part of the Netroots festival.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat who recently led the Congressional Black Caucus, has been tapped as a co-chair to Joe Biden's presidential campaign, a top-level adviser role where he is expected to work on voter engagement, particularly in the South.

"(Biden's) track record restoring dignity to middle-class families and strengthening economic security is clear," Richmond, 45, said in a statement. "Additionally, (Biden's) experience expanding manufacturing, investing in education, and ensuring that Americans have access to affordable health care demonstrates that he understands the difficult challenges people across this nation face today."

Richmond, the only Democrat in Louisiana's Congressional delegation, endorsed former vice president Biden's 2020 bid in April. The New York Times first reported the news of his co-chair assignment Friday, after weeks of speculation that he would serve as a key campaign surrogate.

Chairman duties can vary from campaign-to-campaign. The voluntary position is typically reserved for well-known political figures. Richmond is the first of several co-chairs expected to be named in the coming weeks, according to the Biden campaign.

The chairmanship likely will prompt Richmond to hit the campaign trail, as more than two dozen candidates jockey for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz said the former vice president and staff will particularly benefit from Richmond's support and counsel.

“His leadership on the Congressional Black Caucus and strong relationships throughout the country and the Democratic Party make him an asset to any campaign, and we are very grateful for his valuable contributions to Team Joe,” Schultz said.

Richmond has been in the U.S. House since 2011. Before that, he spent a decade in the Louisiana State House. He was once named to Time's 40 under 40 as an up-and-coming civic leader.

Under the chamber's newly Democratic leadership, Richmond has become assistant to U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, his congressional mentor from South Carolina. South Carolina happens to be an early primary state with a large population of black Democratic voters that could prove vital to candidates hoping to secure the party’s nomination next year.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton easily won the Democratic primary in Louisiana against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont. But in the November election, Republican Donald Trump received more than 58 percent of the state's votes.

Trump has remained popular in Louisiana and recently attended a fundraiser in Old Metairie that raised millions for his re-election campaign. The GOP slate of the Louisiana congressional delegation is supportive of the president.

Biden, 76, has easily emerged as an early front-runner in the crowded field for the Democratic nomination this time around, carrying a 34.8 percent polling average, according to Real Clear Politics. The next closest candidate, Sanders, is polling at an average 16.4 percent.

But Biden also has faced amplified criticism — both from his Democratic opponents and Trump, via the president’s oft-preferred method of communication, Twitter — over the role he had as a U.S. senator in passing the 1994 crime bill and subsequent comments he has made about its impact.

Richmond told The Times he thinks Biden should give a long interview or release a policy position on criminal justice efforts.

“It’s important for people to have a more meaningful conversation about it, as opposed to the talking points,” Richmond said.

He also further discussed the co-chair role in the Times interview, revealing he began recruiting Biden to run in 2020 "almost immediately since (Hillary) Clinton lost" in 2016.

"One, because I thought his body of work was that of a person I’d want to see as president. Two, because I thought he was the best person to take on President Trump and beat him. And then three, from Day 1, restore our credibility around the world, and start to unify a very divided — a very, very divided — country," said Richmond.


Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.