Cesar Chavez’s family to endorse Biden after RFK Jr. claims civil rights leader would’ve voted for him

President Biden is set to be endorsed Friday by members of Cesar Chavez‘s family — a mostly symbolic gesture, but one meant to send a signal to independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s trying to invoke his own family’s ties to the late union organizer and civil rights leader.  

Fernando and Paul Chavez, the sons of the late co-founder of the United Farm Workers, are endorsing the president on Friday, the Biden campaign told CBS News. The family already has close ties to the campaign as Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the granddaughter of Chavez, serves as the president’s campaign manager.

“The bonds of affection and respect for a president who by his character and actions consistently reflects the genuine legacy of my father, Cesar Chavez,” Paul Chavez said in a statement.

A sculpture of Cesar Chavez is seen in the Oval Office on January 28, 2021.
A sculpture of Latino American civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez is displayed in the Oval Office of the White House, Jan. 28, 2021.

Evan Vucci / AP

“Today, my grandfather’s bust sits in the Oval Office — a reminder that President Biden understands the power of organizing and working people and recognizes the impact of my grandfather’s legacy to continue to mobilize our communities into action,” Julie Chavez Rodriguez told CBS News. “In an election that will determine the fate of organized labor, our Latino community, and our democracy, I could not be more humbled to accept the support of my family as one of many that will power us to victory in November ¡Si se puede!.”  

An historic 36.2 million Latino voters are eligible to vote in this year’s election, an increase of 6 million voters since 2020, according to Pew Research. Both Mr. Biden and former President Donald Trump have been courting the Hispanic vote in key battleground states like Nevada and Arizona. Recent polls show this crucial demographic may be more up for grabs than in recent presidential cycles. While Mr. Biden still garners majority support from Latino voters, his backing from this critical demographic has waned. According to a CBS News poll from late February, Mr. Biden’s support among Hispanic voters has dropped by 12 points since 2020, from 65% to 53%.

Enter RFK Jr., who in his independent bid for the White House has been utilizing his uncle John F. Kennedy’s famous “Viva Kennedy” mantel in recent weeks to appeal to Latinos. On Saturday, borrowing heavily from the 1960s slogan, Kennedy will campaign in Los Angeles at a “Viva Kennedy 2024” event designed to launch his campaign’s outreach to Hispanic voters and to connect his insurgent White House bid to his father’s historic ties to the farmworker movement that helped birth the modern-day Latino civil rights movement. 

The friendship between the elder Kennedy and United Farm Workers’ iconic leader Cesar Chavez helped galvanize Latino support for Robert F. Kennedy in the 1968 Democratic presidential primary before he was assassinated after winning the California primary. 

This is the second time in two weeks that Mr. Biden’s reelection campaign has tried to blunt Kennedy’s campaign. On St. Patrick’s Day, the president gave members of the extended Kennedy family — including some of the candidate’s siblings and cousins — a private tour of the Oval Office and West Wing before hosting them with hundreds of others at a holiday reception. Members of the Kennedy family posted photos with the president in a signal that they stand with Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party’s nominee, despite their relative’s campaign.

The president’s ties to the Kennedy and Chavez families and his appreciation for their patriarchs are not only deeply personal, but also marked in the White House, as busts of both Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez are prominently displayed in the Oval Office.

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