CLEVELAND -- The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, giving the presumptive Democratic nominee the 38-year-old chamber's first-ever official backing of a presidential candidate.
Javier Palomarez, chamber president and CEO, told NBC News Latino in an exclusive interview that the chamber chose the Democrats' presumptive nominee Clinton over Donald Trump, who officially became the GOP nominee at the party's convention Tuesday night.
"We are at the Republican convention to announce that we proudly endorse Hillary Clinton for president of the United States," Palomarez said. "We believe she's the best person for the job. She's got experience. She's got the temperament and track record."
He said the chamber broke its 38-year tradition of neutrality in the elections because "these are extraordinary times."
He said the decision to break with history and back one of the candidates "is an unprecedented step for our organization and not one we took lightly." The chamber's board leans Republican, and debate over endorsing Clinton was "lively, robust." The board also is 50 percent men and 50 percent women.
"We believe they call for extraordinary measures," Palomarez said. "We believed Hillary Clinton was the right person for this job."
The chamber represents 4.1 million Hispanic-owned firms that Palomarez said contribute more than $661 billion to the economy annually. It includes more than 200 local chambers and business associations in its network. Also, the chamber advocates for over 272 corporations.
The chamber had endorsed Clinton in the primaries, along with Republican John Kasich.
Clinton and Kasich, along with Martin O'Malley, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush participated in public one-on-one Q&A candidate forums with the chamber during the primaries. Trump had agreed to participate, but then backed out of the agreement to do so. Clinton's Q&A was held in San Antonio when she launched her Latino outreach strategy.
"They were all viable candidates at time and the only one who unscripted, unprompted said of her own accord that she wanted to be America's small business president was Hillary Clinton," Palomarez told NBC Latino.
He said Clinton's father owned a small business and the fact that "she knows the challenge of small business, of mortgaging a house, of risking everything is critically important to us."
"My father was a small businessman, a very small business but it provided a good living for our family but I want to be the small business president," Clinton said then. "I want to pay particular attention to minority-owned and women-owned small businesses ...," Clinton said in that forum.
"But we all recognized that these are extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures and we can hardly stand by and allow an individual who is so openly critical of Hispanics, the disabled, women, the Muslim community and the list goes on" to become president.
Palomarez publicly announced the endorsement the morning after the Republican convention theme had been dedicated to emphasizing Trump policies on business and the economy under the banner of "Make America Work Again."