Grijalva is co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus along with Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5). Grijalva is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He represents Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District which spans much of the Arizona-Mexico border and extends into the South and West portions of Tucson. Congressman Grijalva has one of the most consistently progressive voting records in the U.S. House.
Sanders’ Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has already received endorsements from 114 Representatives and 30 Senators. Although Sanders is way behind in the congressional endorsement race, Grijalva’s backing represents a significant boost for Sanders’ campaign. Grijalva is influential in progressive circles. The seven-term congressman also holds considerable clout with Latino voters, especially in his home state of Arizona.
Sanders will appear for a rally in Tucson Friday night, a few days ahead of the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada on Tuesday. Grijalva’s endorsement will give the Senator a nice feather in his cap, as he embarks upon his journey to sin city.
Whether Grijalva’s decision to endorse Sanders will spur other progressive members of congress to follow suit remains to be seen. Grijalva’s backing adds an heir of legitimacy to Sander’s campaign. While the grassroots has been “feeling the Bern” for several weeks now, Grijalva becomes the first high ranking public official to catch fire for the campaign.
Congressman Grijalva has defended Sanders for several months, although until now he had not expressed formal support for Sanders. However, in September it became obvious that the Arizona congressman was enamored of Sanders’ candidacy, when he argued:
The expectation that he [Sanders] will fade, I think, is not true because the agenda he’s putting forward, instead of tamping down momentum, it’s increasing momentum. … He’s ignited the base in a way that we haven’t been able to do for six years.
When pressed on why Sanders’ hadn’t been endorsed by any member of congress yet, Grijalva simply responded by saying “It’ll come.” He wasn’t kidding. Now Sanders has his first congressional endorsement, but if his campaign continues to build momentum, it will not be his last.