Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) officially endorsed Cenk Uygur, co-founder of online news network The Young Turks, on Thursday to fill the California congressional seat recently vacated by Democratic Rep. Katie Hill.
“For many years Cenk has been one of the outstanding progressive journalists in our country. He has shown enormous courage in standing up to the greed and power of the corporate elite, and has spent his entire life fighting for justice and the needs of the working people of our country,” Sanders said in his formal endorsement.
Sanders, who’s also one of the front-runners in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, said that Uygur supports “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal and putting pressure on billionaires to pay higher taxes ― all issues that Sanders himself has founded his presidential platform on.
“I’m endorsing Cenk because I know he will serve ordinary people, not powerful special interests,” Sanders said. “He is a voice that we desperately need in Congress and will be a great representative for CA-25 and the country.”
Uygur announced last month that he was running for California’s 25th Congressional District. Hill, who was seen as a rising Democratic star, resigned from office in response to rumors about her personal life. Uygur said in an interview broadcast on The Young Turks that he would not be a “standard politician” in his campaign, but hopes to represent “people in a way that they have not seen before.”
“The whole point of my career has been to fight for positive change in the world,” Uygur said on the liberal network. “That’s what I have done on TYT and that’s what I’m going to do in CA-25. I’m going to fight to end corruption and get everyone in CA-25 higher wages.”
Uygur, who was a conservative troll before early 2000s policies changed his political ideology, previously said he would transfer editorial control as well as daily operations of his network to others at the company but would continue hosting some programs.
The media figure has already received prominent progressive endorsements, including from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and former state Sen. Nina Turner (D-Ohio), who now co-chairs Sanders’ 2020 campaign. The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee also spoke positively of Uygur’s candidacy, though it stopped short of an official endorsement.
Hill, meanwhile, has already endorsed Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who represents part of the congressional district in the California state legislature. The seat will be filled in a special election early next year.
Uygur has been a staunch supporter of Sanders for some time, with The Young Turks proving to be a significant source of news about the Vermont senator during the 2016 presidential race, when Sanders fans grew frustrated with mainstream media’s coverage of him. Uygur has already endorsed Sanders for president but reiterated his support on Thursday.
“Bernie Sanders is a legend. He has stood his ground against corporate interests corrupting our politics for over 40 years. He has fought for progressives all of his life. He has been right on all of the issues and now the whole country has moved in his direction. He has carried a whole movement on his shoulders,” Uygur said in a statement. “I believe Bernie Sanders will be the next President of the United States and it is an absolute honor to be endorsed by him.”
The timing of Sanders’ endorsement of Uygur comes as something of a surprise since the presidential candidate has stayed remarkably quiet on another race that has become one of the most hotly contested primary congressional challenges in the country.
Sanders has yet to endorse Texas Democrat Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration attorney challenging Rep. Henry Cueller, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats, in Texas’ 28th Congressional District. Cisneros is running on a progressive platform based on Sanders’ principles, and she is a product of Justice Democrats, a left-wing group formed by alumni of Sanders’ 2016 campaign who are targeting moderate and conservative Democrats in what they consider safe blue seats. (Uygur was once part of Justice Democrats, but was ousted in 2017 after The Wrap found blog posts he wrote in the late 1990s and early 2000s objectifying women).
Cisneros already has the backing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Cisneros has previously told HuffPost that she would welcome Sanders’ help.
Sanders’ campaign has declined to comment on why he hasn’t endorsed Cisneros — and he has limited time to do so, since Texas Democrats vote on March 3 to decide their House nominees.
This story has been updated to reflect that the Sanders campaign confirmed the endorsement to HuffPost.