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Joe Biden endorsed by top Florida Democrat and leading black lawmaker Audrey Gibson

‘You know him and believe in what he’s saying,’ the Jacksonville state Senator said.

Audrey Gibson, the top Democrat in the Florida Senate, is endorsing Joe Biden in the Democratic primary for president.

Experience matters, Gibson told the Tampa Bay Times, and the former vice president edges his rivals in that department.

“We’ve already seen what a neophyte does,” the Jacksonville Democrat said in a nod to President Donald Trump, a political novice before he ran for the highest office. "Our country can’t take any more of that.”

“There is a draw to Joe Biden that you can feel and you know him and believe in what he’s saying,” she added.

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The endorsement comes as the Democratic candidates seek to prove they can win over the diverse coalition of voters — particularly African Americans — who twice catapulted Barack Obama to victory. Gibson, the Senate minority leader, is Florida’s most-tenured black lawmaker with a career in the state Legislature going back to 2002.

In choosing Biden, Gibson dismissed the direct appeals from two of his primary rivals, Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, for black voters to join their cause. As the leading African Americans in the race, Booker and Harris have asserted that their lived experiences as people of color in America give them a perspective other candidates cannot replicate.

“I was raised knowing the injustices in the criminal justice system. I experienced it,” Harris said at a recent Atlanta campaign stop. “I didn’t acquire the language to talk about criminal justice as I started running for president.”

While "no other candidate can out-African American an African American candidate,” Biden has proven himself as a senator who fought for civil rights and as the vice president to the country’s first black president, Gibson said.

“I don’t know how you can get any closer to understanding African Americans and African American issues than that,” she said.

Biden’s past votes in favor of mandatory minimums, one of several positions troubling to progressive and younger civil rights advocates, didn’t temper Gibson’s support.

“I think many folks were caught up in the war on crime and the war on drugs that ravaged many minorities communities, and thought that the best idea was to incarcerate people,” Gibson said. “That was not inclusive to Joe Biden at that time.”

Gibson is the second notable black politician in Florida to back Biden. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee endorsed Biden in May.

Lawson’s two Florida colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, U.S. Reps. Alcee Hasting and Frederica Wilson, have endorsed Harris. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg had early support from Sean Shaw, a former state representative from Tampa and the Democratic party nominee’s for attorney general last year.