Turner and Sanders’ presidential campaign confirmed the endorsement Thursday.
“I’m very attracted by his message and his style and that he has held pretty much strong on his beliefs and the world is catching up with him,” Turner said. She added that Sanders’ positions on voting rights and wage increases have stood out to her.
Turner spoke to cleveland.com by telephone before flying to Iowa, where she will attend Saturday night’s Democratic debate featuring Clinton, Sanders and Martin O’Malley.
She also will introduce Sanders at his Monday night rally at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. The independent Vermont senator, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, has emerged as Clinton’s strongest Democratic primary rival.
“We are extremely, extremely humbled by the support of Sen. Nina Turner,” said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver. “She is nationally known as a voice for voting rights, for workers’ rights and for marginalized people. The support of someone with that record of standing up for middle-income and working people is tremendously important.”
The move comes as a surprise — and a blow for Clinton. Turner had been among her most enthusiastic cheerleaders in the Buckeye State and nationally. She was involved early with the Ready for Hillary super political action committee that promoted Clinton as a presidential candidate before the former U.S. secretary of state launched her campaign.
Turner spoke last fall in New York and earlier this year at a Cleveland fundraiser for the now-defunct organization. In June, she spoke at a grassroots-organizing event for the Clinton campaign in Cleveland. She also had served on the board of Correct the Record, another pro-Clinton super PAC but recently severed ties.
And Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, sent a letter on Turner’s behalf last year that sought donations for her ultimately unsuccessful run for Ohio secretary of state.
Turner said Thursday that, despite her efforts on Clinton’s behalf, she had not formally endorsed the former U.S. secretary of state. Clinton, she said did not lose her support so much as Sanders earned it with his attention to issues dear to her. She stressed that her decision had nothing to do with controversy over Clinton’s private email server.