Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel Feehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan MORE (I-Vt.) on Thursday announced his first endorsements in South Carolina, a pivotal primary state.

The endorsements came from seven black state representatives and were announced ahead of Sanders's speech to the state's Legislative Black Caucus later on Thursday. He was also endorsed by South Carolina AFL-CIO President Emeritus Donna DeWitt.

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“We’re proud to have the endorsement of some of South Carolina’s most distinguished elected officials, labor, and faith leaders," said Sanders's South Carolina state director Kwadjo Campbell. "With their support, and the support of thousands of volunteers across the state, our campaign is building a grassroots movement that will fundamentally transform this country."

South Carolina is expected to play a key role in the 2020 Democratic contest because of how early it holds its primary and the diversity of its voters.

Other high-profile candidates like Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDe Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' Sanders pledges to only nominate Supreme Court justices that support Roe v. Wade From dive bars to steakhouses: How Iowa caucus staffers blow off steam MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisFeehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall MORE (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFeehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall MORE (D-Mass.), as well as former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeOvernight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall CNN announces four more town halls featuring 2020 Dems MORE (D-Texas), have campaigned heavily in the state, almost a year before its primary.

State Rep. John King (D) became the first South Carolina lawmaker to make a 2020 endorsement, declaring his support for Booker earlier this month.

Soon after, Harris announced five key endorsements in the state.

State Rep. Marvin Pendarvis (D) has endorsed O'Rourke.

Among the lawmakers endorsing Sanders are Rep. Krystle Simmons (D), the first black woman to represent the low country region in the state House, and state Rep. Terry Alexander, a reverend who endorsed Sanders in 2016.

“Bernie Sanders is a champion for women's rights and has been rocking with middle class and minority communities since before he was popular. What he did back then matters just as much as it does now,” Simmons said in a statement.

“I support Sen. Sanders, because I believe in his positions that will move this country forward,” Alexander said. “His openness to change, his progressive stance on issues that impact so many people; this is why I was one of the first legislators in South Carolina to endorse him in 2016 and am doing so this year so that we can finish what he started many years ago.”