Sen. John McCain, facing a tough race for Senate re-election, picked up the endorsement of U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Javier Palomarez.
Palomarez also was to join McCain, R-Ariz., on the campaign trail Thursday. The endorsement is believed to be the first ever by the chamber of a candidate, based on a records search.
The endorsement is significant because of Arizona's history of immigration crackdowns and their effect on Latinos in the state. The frontrunner status of Donald Trump, and his anti-immigrant rhetoric, has been seen as a potential negative for down-ballot candidates like Sen. McCain, particularly those in states with high Latino voting populations. The share of Latinos in Arizona who are eligible voters is 21.5 percent.
McCain was a target of Trump, who mocked the senator, a former Vietnam prisoner of war. Trump said McCain was not a war hero and said he wasn't a fan of McCain, because he only likes people who weren't captured.
McCain did not fare well with Latino voters in his 2008 bid for president, which he lost to Barack Obama in the general election that year. He drew criticism from some for shifting right on his immigration views. But in 2013, he was part of the Gang of Eight that wrote and helped pushed through the Senate a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
"I am honored to receive the endorsement of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce ... Hispanic businesses are vital to Arizona's economy and add to the cultural fabric of our state,” McCain said in a statement.
Palomarez said in a statement that McCain had served the state "with nobility and undeniable zeal."
"From uniting the nation through bipartisan legislation in the wake of September 11th, to working alongside the USHCC to urge the swift confirmation of America’s next Mexican ambassador Roberta Jacobson, to leading the passage of the comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate, Sen. McCain has devoted his life to placing his love of country ahead of self-interest and political partisanship," Palomarez stated.
McCain drew a primary challenger from the far right, state Sen. Kelli Ward, a conservative who has said McCain has disappointed conservatives. Also in the race, business owner Alex Meluskey. Should he survive the primary, he also could face a tough challenge from U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.
Palomarez had endorsed HUD Secretary Julián Castro and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez as potential vice presidential candidates, but neither are actual candidates at this time.