State Rep. Calvin Smyre, the longest-serving member of the Georgia Legislature and one of the state’s most influential Democrats, said Tuesday he is endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign for president.
Smyre, the dean of the Georgia House, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was drawn to Biden because of his decades of experience in the U.S. Senate and tenure as President Barack Obama’s No. 2.
“He’s got the stature, the experience and the knowledge,” said Smyre. “He meets all the requirements for a president. He’s endured difficult times and weathered personal storms. We’ve got a cadre of candidates running, but Joe Biden is the one who won’t need on the job training.”
The endorsement comes as Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is set to arrive in Atlanta Tuesday for a fundraiser. Smyre joins a group of prominent Georgia supporters of Biden that includes Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland.
First elected in 1974 at the age of 26, Smyre emerged as one of the most powerful members of the Georgia House when it was dominated by Democrats. He was the first black lawmaker in Georgia to be appointed a governor’s floor leader.
Since the GOP won control of the chamber in 2005, Smyre has cemented his role as a statehouse powerbroker who quietly hashes out agreements across party lines between feuding politicians. Biden, he said, is also a bridge-builder who can find common ground with Republicans.
“I know Joe Biden’s record. I know the things he stands for, and I feel very comfortable in his judgment and actions,” said Smyre. “His record speaks for itself – and he has one that he can stand proudly on.”
Biden campaign strategist Kamau Marshall said Smyre will be a “remarkable asset as we continue to build an effective grassroots movement” to defeat President Donald Trump. Bottoms called him “one of the most respected and experienced” lawmakers in the nation.
“Chairman Smyre knows Joe Biden. He knows Joe Biden’s experience and his heart,” she said. “And Chairman Smyre knows that what our country needs today is the leadership of Joe Biden as President of the United States.”
Smyre is among a small group of Georgia elected leaders who have picked sides in the race.
Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell backed U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. Several prominent state legislators recently backed U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. Pete Buttigieg has endorsements from Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi and state Rep. Matthew Wilson.
But most other influential Democrats in Georgia are on the sidelines.
A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey found that hardly any state elected officials, leading Democratic figures and grassroots activists have decided on a candidate yet. About one-sixth of small-dollar donors in Georgia have hedged their bets by giving to multiple contenders.
It’s not for lack of attention. An AJC analysis shows that major candidates have already made about two dozen trips to Atlanta, including a visit by Biden in June when he announced he no longer supports a controversial ban that blocked the use of federal funds for some abortions.
The pace of endorsements, though, is certain to quicken as the crowded field begins to narrow and Georgia Democrats face new pressure to pick a candidate before the state’s March 24 presidential primary.