“Today I’m announcing that I am not running for president. I believe that there are Democrats now in the presidential race who are speaking to the importance of tackling the big challenges we face,” Merkley said in a campaign video announcing his decision.
His candidacy was long rumored. Merkley has served as a Senator since 2009, but would have to give up his seat to run for the higher office. Last month he weighed the risk of losing his Senate seat should he run.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Set the Stage Against Trump
Merkley made the following announcement on his website Monday:
Since Donald Trump was elected, I’ve been traveling from coast to coast helping organize our resistance and get our country back on track. I’ve gone to the border many times to call attention to Trump’s prisons for children, filibustered the brazen theft of a Supreme Court seat, and helped organize the fight for a Green New Deal.
I’ve had extraordinary encounters in every corner of the country with amazing people who are giving everything they have to create an America that works for all of us. And I’ve been thinking hard about what I can give, how I can make the best contribution to the vital work in front of us.
He’s a frequent critic of President Trump. In a Tweet, he compared President Trump to Kim Jong-Un unfavorably last month.
He was “disappointed” in Trump’s State of the Union. And, the Senator has been very critical of Trump’s family separation policy, harnessing social media to draw attention to a former Walmart store being used as a refugee facility in Texas.
The White House issued the following statement about his visit, reported The Washington Post:
“Senator Merkley is irresponsibly spreading blatant lies about routine immigration enforcement while smearing hard-working, dedicated law enforcement officials at ICE and CBP,” the statement from deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley read. “No one is taking a public safety lecture from Sen. Merkley,” it added, “whose own policies endanger children, empower human smugglers and drug cartels, and allow violent criminal aliens to flood into American communities.”
2. He’s Calling for Immediate Action on Climate Change
In November, he introduced a Senate resolution calling for “bold action” to combat Climate Change.
“The Trump Administration clearly wants to bury the findings of this new report, just like they want to bury their heads in the sand rather than acknowledge the truth about our climate. But we won’t let them,” said Merkley.
“I don’t think we have time to waste,” he said to Klamath County, Oregon residents last month. “I’m hoping that whether it’s a Democrat or Republican in office in 2021, a high emphasis will be taken on this challenge.”
3. He Wants to Abolish the Electoral College
“Merkley recalls that ‘In just two decades, we have now seen two elections where the majority of voters supported a candidate who did not become the president, due to the Electoral College. Now is the time to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to elect the president of the United States by direct popular vote,'” reports The Nation.
Merkley was also behind the Wall Street Reform Bill.
He, along with other Democratic Presidential hopefuls, also supports the $15 minimum wage bill. According to his website, his top priority is to create good-paying jobs. He also plans to reform the tax code.
4. He’s got an Image Issue
In a run for the White House, Merkley would have the challenge of coming out from behind Bernie Sanders shadow. He’s well known in the Beltway and Washington, but his standing out in 2016 for support of Sanders means he now has to let people know he’s not just the younger Bernie.
5. Merkley’s Family Supported his Decision
Merkley is 62, making his decision one of critical timing in his career. His family did support the idea of his 2020 Presidential run, but he’s chosen to run again for his Senate seat. He married to Mary Sorteberg, a nurse. They have two children, Jonathan and Brynne. He earned his B.A. at Stanford University and earned a Master of Public Policy from Princeton University.
He is a lifelong resident of Oregon. He spent a summer in high school in Ghana learning about how to save the environment.
Merkley concluded in his announcement “What I’m [also] sure of is right now the Senate is not prepared to be a full partner in this fight. My best contribution is to run for re-election and do all I can to help the Senate be a full partner in addressing the challenges before us.”