1st black US attorney general endorses Clinton

Charleston - Hillary Clinton has secured an endorsement from the nation's first black attorney general as she works to maintain an advantage among African-American voters in her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Clinton campaign announced Eric Holder's support in a statement to The Associated Press.

Holder, who served as President Barack Obama's top law enforcement appointee for more than five years, said Clinton "is the candidate that we need in the White House" to continue "the progress of President Obama".

The country's former top lawyer will campaign for Clinton in an upcoming swing to South Carolina.

African-American voters favour Clinton by a wide margin according to preference polls, and they will likely make up a majority of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina's February 20 primary and potentially in other Southern primaries that follow in March.

Holder said the former secretary of state "has bold plans to address police brutality, fight for common sense reforms to our gun laws". He did not name fellow Democratic candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, instead focusing on Republicans he said would "tear down our progress on civil rights, health care and curbing gun violence".

South Carolina is the only one of the initial four states to vote where black voters anchor the Democratic Party base of support. Polls in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire show Sanders either leading or nearly deadlocked with Clinton.

Clinton has emphasised her support for tougher gun laws, trying to paint Sanders as an ally of gun manufacturers based on some of his previous votes in the Senate. Sanders supports Obama's recent executive action to expand background checks on certain gun purchases, but he has argued that rural communities, like those he represents in Vermont, rightfully view gun restrictions more sceptically than many urban residents, including many African-Americans.

Gun violence is particularly important to black voters in South Carolina. In June, a white gunman entered a historically black church in Charleston and killed the minister and eight others, drawing a national outcry.

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