Oregon's junior U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley today issued an impassioned endorsement of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He is the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse Sanders. Gov. Kate Brown earlier endorsed Sanders' opponent, former Secretary of State and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Oregon's Democratic primary is May 17.

Merkley cast his decision in personal terms.



I grew up in working-class Oregon. On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.

My parents believed in education and they believed in the United States. When I was young, my father took me to the grade school and told me that if I went through those doors, and worked hard, I could do just about anything because we lived in America. My dad was right.

Years later, my family and I still live in the same working-class community I grew up in. But America has gone off track, and the outlook for the kids growing up there is a lot gloomier today than 40 years ago.

He also explained his decision in a way that will give him a clear path to supporting Clinton, should she maintain her lead over Sanders and become the Democratic nominee.



Unlike the Republican primary circus, Democrats have a choice between two candidates with lifelong track records of fighting for economic opportunity and who are committed to America’s being a force for peace and stability and who are eager to meet today’s challenges and move our country forward for all its citizens, together.

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.

But Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country.

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.

He has passionately advocated for pivoting from fossil fuels to renewable energy to save our planet from global warming — the greatest threat facing humanity. He recognizes that to accomplish this we must keep the vast bulk of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground.

Bernie is a determined leader in taking on the concentration of campaign cash from the mega-wealthy that is corrupting the vision of opportunity embedded in our Constitution.