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Merkley to Democrats: adopt Sanders' ideas

Senator urges party to unite, focus on upcoming key races

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley says Bernie Sanders’ policy ideas will help unite the Democratic Party behind the pending nomination of Hillary Clinton for president.

The Oregon Democrat, the only U.S. senator to endorse his Vermont colleague for president, said those issues include creating living-wage jobs, curbing college costs, coping with climate change, and countering big-donor influence on political campaigns.

Merkley spoke recently with the Portland Tribune/Pamplin Media Group while Sanders met with President Obama.

“To be successful, I think the Democratic Party has to be willing to take on the substantial issues we face in America and lay out a vision for solving them,” Merkley said.

“That is what Bernie’s campaign has done, in a fashion that has created a lot of energy and excitement. This is where good policy is also good politics — a bold vision for solving the problems people face.”

Sanders has met with Clinton to discuss ways to build party unity and counter presumed GOP nominee Donald Trump but has not yet officially endorsed her.

“This is what happened eight years ago with the Clinton and Obama campaigns,” Merkley said. “After it was clear we had a nominee, they sat down and started working out a strategy for the convention. In this case, a strategy will need to give significant air time to the ideas Bernie Sanders has put forward and mobilized millions of Americans.”

While Sanders has said he will work against Trump, some supporters have said they will not vote for Clinton — or might even support the New York billionaire.

But Merkley said most eventually will come around, just as Clinton backers in 2008 swung to Obama.

“When your candidate loses, you do not believe it at first, then you are angry and frustrated,” Merkley said. “Then you realize you have got to keep fighting for the principles that candidate represented.”

Merkley said he doubts Sanders supporters would switch to Trump.

“He has never woken up a day in his life thinking about how to make things work better for working people. He has been a self-promoting huckster,” he said. “It’s going to be important that the American people see through his salesmanship and make sure he never gets near the Oval Office.”

Merkley said the sooner Democrats unite, the more they can focus on key races that could shift a majority of the Senate back to Democratic control.

“I think that capturing the grassroots enthusiasm that Bernie Sanders generated will make a big difference,” he said. “In a lot of close races, a mobilized, excited grass roots is going to make a difference in who wins.”

Republicans must defend 24 seats up for election this cycle, and the Democrats only 10, including Oregon’s Ron Wyden. Democrats must make a net gain of four or five to

win control, depending on whether a Democrat is elected vice president.

Merkley also said he hoped the Democratic convention would re-evaluate “superdelegates,” the category of elected officials and party leaders who are not bound by how Democrats vote in state primaries and caucuses.

“They were a way to encourage party leaders to make a trip to the national convention,” he said. “There must be other ways to do that.”

The category was created after the 1980 election as a counterweight to nominees, such as George McGovern in 1972, who swept primaries, but lost big in general elections.

Oregon will have 74 delegates and five alternates to the 2016 Democratic convention.

Twenty delegates and the five alternates will be chosen at a statewide convention Saturday, June 18, in Portland; 41 delegates have been chosen at five congressional district meetings.

Of those totals, 36 delegates and three alternates are pledged to Sanders — unless he releases them — and 25 delegates and two alternates are pledged to Clinton. The figures are roughly proportionate to the candidates’ shares in Oregon’s May 17 primary.

The other 13 are unpledged superdelegates. Merkley and two Democratic National Committee officials support Sanders. Seven others, including Gov. Kate Brown, Sen. Wyden, and three of four House members, support Clinton. The others have not announced.

Contact Peter Wong at 503- 580-0266 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..