Bernie Sanders Snags Congressional Endorsement From Kamala Harris’ Backyard

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 10: From left, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,  Cory Booker, D-N.J., Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Joe Negues, D-Colo., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., conduct a news conference in the Capitol to introduce a legislative package that would lower prescription drug prices in the U.S. on January 10, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) landed a rather interesting endorsement on Thursday.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) threw his support to Sanders, making him the first member of Congress to endorse a presidential candidate from a state outside his own. Khanna will serve as one of Sanders’ national campaign co-chairmen.

“Every 50 years, there is someone who can fundamentally alter the course of American politics,” Khanna said in a statement released by Sanders’ campaign. “Bernie Sanders has the chance to reorient our economic policy towards workers and communities left behind instead of corporate interests and to reorient our foreign policy to prioritize peace, diplomacy and restraint instead of war.”

The endorsement is a slight to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) — Khanna represents a district in Harris’ Bay Area home region.

Khanna has worked to become a leading progressive voice in the House in his two terms in Congress, joining the House Progressive Caucus and regularly speaking out on foreign policy and economic issues. Khanna has partnered with Sanders a few times on legislation, sponsoring the House version of Sanders’ bills to force large corporations like Amazon to pay a living wage to workers and another bill aimed at lowering prescription drug prices.

His elevation into Sanders’ inner circle means he’ll likely serve as a leading surrogate for the senator’s campaign. Notably, three of Sanders’ four campaign co-chairs are nonwhite, a sign that Sanders is making a heavy effort to reverse his campaign’s male-dominated, heavily white 2016 campaign structure. If Sanders is going to win the Democratic nomination, he’ll have to significantly improve his 2016 performance among nonwhite and female voters. Sanders’ other co-chairs are Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner (D), who’s headed the pro-Sanders Our Revolution PAC, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen.

Khanna has legislated as a staunch progressive, but ran as a much more moderate, pro-Silicon Valley candidate in both 2016 and 2014, when he challenged then-Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA).

His support could help Sanders make some inroads in the state, though Khanna is not particularly well-known outside of Washington, D.C. and endorsements rarely matter much in terms of moving voters.

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