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Rep. Keith Ellison endorses Hillary Clinton

Initially a vocal Sanders supporter, the Minneapolis Democrat announced his endorsement of Clinton on Wednesday.

Ellison endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in October 2015. Now, a day after Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, Ellison is doing the same.
REUTERS/Eric Miller

The first Minnesota member of Congress to feel the Bern is, as of today, with her: On Wednesday, Rep. Keith Ellison officially endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

The Minneapolis Democrat, who endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in October 2015, explained his decision to MinnPost.

“I’ve always admired Hillary Clinton, always thought she was good,” Ellison said. “I think she’s a dedicated public servant, and done a lot for our country.”

“Her roots are progressive,” he added, citing Clinton’s past advocacy for children’s health care and women’s rights. “There’s a lot of things she’s done that make her a legit progressive candidate. I believe she’s demonstrated the capacity to listen to the grassroots.”

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Ellison’s announcement comes a day after Sanders appeared with Clinton in New Hampshire and endorsed her, officially bringing to a close a Democratic primary process that was much lengthier, and much more contentious, than many had expected.

Count Ellison in that group: He’s often expressed happy surprise that Sanders, the 74-year-old socialist from Vermont, made it as far as he did. Ellison sees it as a vindication of progressive politics, the makings of the political revolution that Sanders often invoked on the campaign trail. He also took longer than other top Sanders-backers did in officially endorsing Clinton.

Ellison said, “I’m disappointed, because I worked hard for my candidate, and believed in my candidate. … I always thought the Bernie campaign was a little bit of a long shot, but I am one of those people who believes in betting on a long shot.”

As attention now shifts to a general election showdown between Clinton and Donald Trump, some die-hard Sanders supporters say they are as repelled by Clinton as they are by Trump, with some promising to either vote for Trump, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, or even write in Sanders’ name.

Ellison said he plans to be making the case to progressives that “no true Bernie supporter could vote for Trump. … This guy is talking about change, yeah — for the worse.”

He said he spoke to Clinton and congratulated her. “I told her I was here to help, and I think my first job is to help progressive activists and Bernie supporters understand that we don’t lose by supporting Hillary Clinton.”

“She’s tough as hell. On Benghazi alone, they poured $7 million into pushing down her numbers,” Ellison said, referencing the Republican investigation into the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya that left four Americans dead. “They asked her anything and she never broke.”

“We’re going to be well served by President Clinton. Hillary Clinton.”

Nevertheless, Ellison did not say whom he plans to cast his superdelegate vote for at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. He did suggest he would not vote for Sanders for symbolic reasons, saying the senator’s convention speech would be the time to recognize his success.

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Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan, who endorsed Sanders, has not yet endorsed Clinton. Rep. Collin Peterson has said he plans to cast his superdelegate vote for Sanders, in accordance with how his 7th District voted.

Also on Wednesday, the Clinton campaign trotted out a list of 11 formerly Sanders-backing Minnesota politicians who now endorse Clinton: state Sens. Scott Dibble and Patricia Torres Ray, state Reps. Susan Allen, Karen Clark, Raymond Dehn, Frank Hornstein, Sheldon Johnson, and Carlos Mariani, former state Sen. Becky Lourey, St. Paul City Councilmember Dai Thao, and Minneapolis City Councilmember Lisa Bender.