Newspaper article

Rep. Keith Ellison on Why He's Backing Bernie Sanders for President

Newspaper article

Rep. Keith Ellison on Why He's Backing Bernie Sanders for President

Article excerpt

Keith Ellison is, officially, feeling the Bern: today, the Fifth District representative announced he is formally endorsing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.

"He is a very, very strong candidate," Ellison said in a phone interview with MinnPost. "He and I share a really strong vision in terms of how working and middle-class people can be successful. I plan on helping Bernie out and campaigning for him."

Ellison named a variety of issues upon which he and Sanders agree -- primarily, raising the minimum wage, ending mass incarceration and fighting the oil industry. On one of Sanders' biggest obstacles - - his proud identification as a socialist -- Ellison pushed back: "People will go based on substance and not labels. Republicans will try to make distractions about labels. ... Bernie has never run away from his belief system," he said, adding that the late Sen. Paul Wellstone shared the same quality.

Could Sanders compete in a general election against a Republican like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush? "I think Bernie's going to stack up well," Ellison said. "People respect authenticity."

That being said, Ellison did not say that Sanders was a lock for the nomination: He said that he believes the Vermonter is a legitimate candidate, but also acknowledged that, even if he doesn't win the nomination, Sanders' candidacy presents a major opportunity to advance progressive issues.

Thus far, Ellison and Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona -- co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus -- are the only members of Congress to formally endorse Sanders. (Sanders is the only Senate member in the group of progressive lawmakers.) Ellison said more congressional progressives may jump into the Sanders camp: He says he'll tell people, "If you think Bernie's values line up with yours, support him."

Meanwhile, the party's front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has racked up the endorsements from prominent Minnesota Democrats. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. …

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