Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden picked up an endorsement Friday from an Obama administration Cabinet member who also served as the first American of Chinese descent to head the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
“Our current international state of affairs requires a leader with tried and tested experience in dealing with some of our most consequential issues,” Gary Locke, former United States ambassador to China and former secretary of commerce, said in a statement released first to NBC News. “I cannot think of anyone better than Joe Biden to assume the role of commander-in-chief at this critical time.”
The endorsement from Locke, the former governor of Washington and a figure respected in the Asian American community, follows a round of New Hampshire endorsements for Biden, including notable state leaders and elected officials. Voting in the state’s primary takes place Feb. 11.
Locke was also the first Chinese-American governor in U.S. history and grew up in Seattle housing projects, working in his dad's grocery store.
He is now the seventh Obama Cabinet member to endorse Biden, according to the former vice president’s campaign.
“As an Ambassador and Secretary of Commerce during the Obama-Biden Administration, I saw firsthand Joe’s leadership and ability to deliver real results on behalf of Americans,” Locke said. “From the Affordable Care Act to signing the Paris Climate Accords — Joe Biden helped make progress a reality.”
The endorsement comes a little more than a month before California’s early primary March 3. Asian Americans could play an important role in that contest, as they account for roughly 1 of every 6 registered voters in the state, according to AAPI Data.
Over the years, both the Democratic and the Republican parties have tried to win over Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, who accounted for just over 4 percent of the electorate in the last presidential election.
With nearly 2 in 5 Asian American registered voters not identifying as either a Democrat or a Republican, the parties view the voting bloc as one that is potentially up for grabs.
But Asian American support has yet to coalesce around one single presidential candidate.
While Biden has received endorsements from Locke and recently the AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC, Democratic hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts picked up support earlier this month from more than 100 prominent Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, among them “Crazy Rich Asians” actress Constance Wu and author Celeste Ng.
Andrew Yang, an Asian American entrepreneur and a Democrat running for president, has amassed a faithful following known as the “Yang Gang.” And other Democratic candidates — among them Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, — have garnered support from parts of the Asian American community, as had the campaign of Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.