Bernie Sanders earned his first endorsement from a colleague in the Senate on Wednesday, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
Merkley announced his support in an op-ed for the New York Times, writing,"Under President Obama's leadership, our country is fairer and more prosperous for all than it was seven years ago. But as we look toward the next administration, there is far more work to do. We need urgency. We need big ideas. We need to rethink the status quo."
Merkley praised Sanders' rival Hillary Clinton as a candidate with a "remarkable record" who "would be a strong and capable president."
"But Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country," Merkley wrote, citing the senator's opposition to trade deals, plan to break up big banks, and his advocacy on climate change and campaign finance reform.
Merkley said his decision came down to who had the boldest vision to help the next generation of Americans, a group that he said does not have the same advantages that he or his parents had in trying to make their way into the middle class.
"It is not that America is less wealthy than 40 years ago — quite the contrary," Merkley wrote. "The problem is that our economy, both by accident and design, has become rigged to make a fortunate few very well off while leaving most Americans struggling to keep up."
Merkley acknowledged that Sanders has an "uphill battle" to earn the Democratic nomination in the presidential race. He currently trails Clinton by 220 pledged delegates and many superdelegates, including 40 of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, have already signaled their support for the former secretary of state.
But the Oregon senator argued that Sanders has "galvanized a grassroots movement" for his willingness to provide "a wholesale rethinking how our economy and our politics work, and for whom they work."
Merkley, who has served with Sanders in the Senate since 2009, is one of the most liberal members of Congress' upper chamber. Although he is the state's junior senator, Merkley has made a name for himself on the Senate Banking Committee for his opposition to big banks and policies that benefit Wall Street.
Merkley's home state of Oregon will vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries on May 17. His colleague, Oregon's senior senator Ron Wyden, endorsed Clinton in January, just before the Iowa caucuses.
Although Merkley is the first senator to back Sanders' campaign, he joins seven members of the House in endorsing Team Bernie.
With Merkley now officially "feelin' the Bern," just two Democrats in the US Senate remain on the sidelines in the presidential race: Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Warren, in particular, would be a high-profile surrogate for either campaign. The liberal firebrand has a national following of progressive voters and would seem ideologically more aligned with Sanders than with Clinton, particularly given her strong opposition to big banks. But the Massachusetts senator has remained mum on the race so far.
Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, has also not endorsed in the race. King has said he will stay neutral until each party has chosen their nominee.
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