US Senator Merkley backs Sanders for Democratic presidential nominee

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Senator Jeff Merkley Endorses Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley endorsed Bernie Sanders on Wednesday for the party's presidential nomination, becoming the first member of the Senate to announce support for the fellow U.S. senator from Vermont.

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In a New York Times column announcing his endorsement, Merkley said he supports Sanders for his work battling economic inequality, opposing trade deals and fighting for the middle class.

"It is time to recommit ourselves to that vision of a country that measures our nation's success not at the boardroom table, but at kitchen tables across America," Merkley wrote. "Bernie Sandersstands for that America, and so I stand with Bernie Sanders for president."

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US Senator Merkley backs Sanders for Democratic presidential nominee
A supporter sports a t-shirt with a montage of photographs of Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, during a mock caucus at Drips coffee shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Hoping to persuade undecided Democrats with just a week until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took on some of the questions that have most dogged their candidacies, from trustworthiness and e-mails to feasibility and socialism. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ben Cohen, left, and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings Inc., talk to supporters during a mock caucus at Drips coffee shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Hoping to persuade undecided Democrats with just a week until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took on some of the questions that have most dogged their candidacies, from trustworthiness and e-mails to feasibility and socialism. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A supporter of Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders listens during a campaign event at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 24, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: A supporter of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., shows off buttons during a campaign rally at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., January 22, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Supporters of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listen to him speak during a campaign rally at Bedford High School in Bedford, N.H., January 22, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
BIRMINGHAM, AL - JANUARY 18: Cassidy Lamb waves a sign before Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives to a campaign rally at Boutwell Auditorium, January 18, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama. Sanders spoke to a capacity crowd of around 5,000 supporters. (Photo by Hal Yeager/Getty Images)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JANUARY 10: Marc Daniels, of Springfield, Illinois, travels from one campaign event to another selilng what he calls 'Presidential Yarmulkes.' He is wearing a yarmulke printed with the phrase, 'Bernie Sanders 2016,' in Hebrew. Daniels was a guest at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on January 10, 2016 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Sanders drew an overflow crowd to the 600 person capacity meeting room of the Best Western Regency Inn in Marshalltown. Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have been making appearances at events across Iowa to build support in advance of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. (Photo by Charles Ledford/Getty Images)
BURLINGTON, VT - JANUARY 07: A Bernie Sanders supporter holds up a pair of 'Bernie Briefs' in a local bar on January 7, 2016 in Burlington, Vermont. The line to see Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally wrapped around the venue and down multiple streets and multiple groups of protesters were. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 14: John Jarecki wears a puppet of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to show his support for the candidate prior to the start of the Democratic presidential debate at Drake University on November 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The debate will be the second for the democratic candidates seeking the nomination for president. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a hat with a sign in support of Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, stands at a rally ahead of the Democratic presidential candidate debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. The second Democratic debate, hosted by CBS News, KCCI and the Des Moines Register, is the Democratic National Committees only sanctioned debate in Iowa prior to the states first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 1. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Merkley praised Sanders' Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, who also served in the Senate, and said he recognized Sanders has an "uphill battle" to defeat her.

Clinton leads Sanders in delegate support needed to clinch the nomination ahead of the Nov. 8 election but Merkley said Sanders could still upset her.

"Anything's possible in a campaign," he said in an interview on MSNBC, citing Sanders' stance on a range of issues, from trade and healthcare to climate change and campaign finance.

"Issue after issue ... he's been out there leading long before he decided to run," he told MSNBC.

RELATED: Sanders on the campaign trail

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Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail
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US Senator Merkley backs Sanders for Democratic presidential nominee
PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 15: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to a crowd gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center during a campaign rally on March 15, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary elections in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, while Missouri and Illinois remain tight races. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 26: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to the media after holding a campaign event with United Steelworkers Local 310L, on January 26, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders continues his quest to become the Democratic presidential nominee.. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 24, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, participates in the Democratic presidential candidate debate in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. Hours before Sunday's Democratic debate, the two top Democratic contenders held a warm-up bout of sorts in multiple separate appearances on political talk shows, at a time when the polling gap between the pair has narrowed in early-voting states. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 05: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) shakes hands with supporters after outlining his plan to reform the U.S. financial sector on January 5, 2016 in New York City. Sanders is demanding greater financial oversight and greater government action for banks and individuals that break financial laws. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
LEBANON, NH - NOVEMBER 11: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) marches in the Veterans Day Parade November 11, 2015 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Sanders goes into the Democrats second debate this weekend still running strong in the polls.(Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. While next Tuesday's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks about the Workplace Democracy Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses striking low-wage contract workers from the US Capitol and religious leaders at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC, on September 22, 2015 for an interfaith service ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis for a six-day visit to the US. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - SEPTEMBER 19: Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talks on stage during the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention on September 19, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Five Democratic presidential candidates are all expected to address the crowd inside the Verizon Wireless Arena. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
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Merkley's announcement comes ahead of the May 17 primary in Oregon and he said the state's residents can start voting by mail later this month. The endorsement also comes less than a week before New York's heated primary nominating contest on April 19.

Clinton won the endorsement of the New York Daily News on Wednesday. The newspaper called her a "superprepared warrior realist" who also understands the economic toll the country has faced, while labeling Sanders "utterly unprepared" with "politically impossible" goals.

Sanders will have a news conference in Brooklyn later on Wednesday to announce an endorsement, the campaign said, without giving further details.

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