Senate Supreme Court

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, joins other character witnesses and legal experts testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the last day of the confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018.

While many of his fellow leading congressional Democrats are holding back and waiting for the party’s large presidential field to winnow, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond decided to get out front and make an early endorsement. His candidate: Former Vice President Joe Biden.

It turns out the regard is mutual. The Biden campaign has now named Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, assistant to the majority whip and former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, as its first national co-chair.

The new role with send Richmond out onto the campaign trail, including to South Carolina, an important early primary state with a large African-American electorate, and one that’s represented by Richmond’s mentor in Congress, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

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It will also put him in front of national reporters and network cameras — already has, in fact. One of Richmond’s apparent aims is to neutralize criticism of Biden’s support for a tough 1994 crime bill that’s been widely blamed for helping to launch an era of mass incarceration among African-Americans.

Asked whether Biden should clarify his assertion that the bill was not responsible for this outcome, Richmond told The New York Times that he should give a long interview or put out a policy statement on the subject.

“When people remember the climate, the times and all of those things, it puts it into a different perspective. My young activists — I love them to death, but the fact that they’re young activists means that they did not grow up on the streets I grew up in,” Richmond said. “Part of the question would be, if we did nothing, one, how would history have judged us as Congress, and what would the communities look like? And so, do I think the implementation of the bill was perfect? Far from it. In fact, the implementation did the legislation a real disservice. And so I think that’s why it’s important for people to have a more meaningful conversation about it, as opposed to the talking points.”

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.