Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is the first U.S. Senator to endorse Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, writing a lengthy New York Times op-ed in support of Sanders:
“It has been noted that Bernie has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination,” Merkley wrote.
“But his leadership on these issues and his willingness to fearlessly stand up to the powers that be have galvanized a grass-roots movement. People know that we don’t just need better policies, we need a wholesale rethinking of how our economy and our politics work, and for whom they work.”
The endorsement is important because Sanders’s record in the Senate has been under increased scrutiny—and that none of Sanders’s colleagues in the Senate have endorsed the Vermont senator has been a talking point for the Clinton campaign since the race began.
Clinton still maintains a large lead in endorsements, with 40 endorsements in the Senate, and 13 state governors.
Sanders has yet to pick up an endorsement from a state governor.
Merkley conceded that Hillary Clinton would also make a “strong and capable” president:
“From her time advocating for children as a young lawyer to her work as first lady of Arkansas and the United States, and as a senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has a remarkable record. She would be a strong and capable president.”
However, he says that Sanders “boldly addresses” the problems facing the country:
“But Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country.”
Merkley continues, “He has opposed trade deals with nations that pay their workers as little as a dollar an hour. Such deals have caused good jobs to move overseas and undermined the leverage of American workers to bargain for a fair share of the wealth they create in our remaining factories.”
Senator Merkley said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the timing for his endorsement is to precede Oregon’s voting, which is done by mail, with ballots going out at the end of the month.
It also comes just days before Sanders and Clinton compete in the New York primaries on April 19.