Mary Sorteberg, Jeff Merkley’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

mary sorteberg and jeff merkley

Instagram/Jeff Merkley Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and wife Mary Sorteberg.

Mary Rose Sorteberg, 52, is married to Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who has been representing Oregon in Congress since 2009. He was expected to announce that he was launching a presidential campaign during a Facebook announcement on March 5, 2019. But instead, he announced that he had decided against a presidential run and would seek re-election to the Senate.

Sorteberg and Merkely have been married for more than two decades and have two children.

Here’s what you need to know.


1. Mary Sorteberg Was Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter in Washington, D.C. When She Was Introduced to Jeff Merkley By His Roommate

Mary Sorteberg and Jeff Merkley met in the 1980s when they were both living in Washington, D.C. Merkley had moved to the nation’s capital to work as a Presidential Management Fellow in the Department of Defense.

Sorteberg volunteered with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps at a homeless shelter in what the Portland Monthly described as a “crack-ridden neighborhood.”

Merkley’s roommate was also a volunteer at the same facility. Merkley told the Statesman Journal in 2014 that his roommate invited several of the volunteers to the apartment for dinner. Sorteberg was in attendance and their relationship took off from there.

They moved to Portland in 1991 and tied the knot in 1992.


2. Mary Sorteberg is a Nurse & Supported the Family When Merkley Began His Political Career

Mary Sorteberg works as a nurse. She explained in an interview with the Oregonian in 2008 that the family lived mainly off her salary after Merkley decided to pursue a political career. He was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1998.

Sorteberg told the newspaper that Merkley had become exhausted trying to balance being a state congressman and holding a day-job at the World Affairs Council, as well as raising their two young children. She agreed that he should quit his full-time job in order to focus entirely on politics.


3. Mary Sorteberg & Jeff Merkley Have Two Grown Children

Mary Sorteberg and Jeff Merkley have a daughter and a son, named Brynne and Jonathan. Brynne is studying environmental science at Cornell University and will graduate in 2020.

In June of 2018, Senator Merkley shared a throwback photo of his family from when Brynne and Jonathan were much younger. He wrote about the controversial policy in which immigrant children were separated from their parents at the border with Mexico. “This #FathersDay, I’m thinking about when my kids were young. Back to when my son was a toddler and my daughter just a baby. I can’t imagine the impossibly excruciating pain if someone with a badge and gun had ripped them out of our arms. Ripping children away from their parents is just plain cruel and inhumane. On this Father’s Day, let’s not only celebrate our own families – let’s fight to keep families together.”


4. The Couple Lives in East Portland With Their Dog, Sadie

Mary Sorteberg and Jeff Merkley have been living in the same house since 1996, according to online property records in Multnomah County, Oregon. They purchased their single-story home for $129,000. In 2018, the taxable value of the house and the land was estimated at $339,450.

According to Zillow, the home was originally built in 1964. It has 1,056 square feet with a basement, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

The home sits on a 7,000 square foot lot and their dog, Sadie, likely enjoys the large yard. Merkley has referred to Sadie on his Instagram page as his “forever puppy.”


5. Mary Sorteberg Appears to Be Very Supportive of Her Husband’s Political Ambitions

Mary Sorteberg does not have an active social media presence but she frequently appears on her husband’s profile pages. Senator Merkley shared the above photo of Mary helping him fix something on the front of his shirt as he prepared to be sworn in to the 114th Congress on January 6, 2015.


"Oregon Born"Jeff grew up in a working-class family. His dad was a millwright in Myrtle Creek and Roseburg and he was the first in his family to go to college. For Jeff, it's always been about a stronger middle class, and as our senator he's fought for Oregon values. The ad chronicles Jeff's work taking on…2014-06-02T19:43:07.000Z

During his initial campaign for the U.S. Senate, Sorteberg reportedly was involved in sending out emails asking for donations. She also appeared in campaign commercials, like the one embedded above. Senator Merkley cited his wife’s career as a nurse as helping to shape his views on health care.

The job comes with its perks. In May of 2015, Sorteberg was in attendance on Capitol Hill the day that Elton John testified before Congress about the fight against AIDS worldwide. The couple snapped a photo with the musician.

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