In the race for Virginia's governorship, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has thrown his support Tuesday behind a candidate challenging the Democratic establishment's preferred choice. It's not exactly a surprising move for a former progressive presidential candidate who nearly upended the candidacy of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who would go on to lose to outsider Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has garnered the support of "nearly every Democrat in the state legislature, congressional delegation and statewide office," The Washington Post reported. Sanders has backed Tom Perriello, citing his progressive ideals. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June.
"We need to elect progressives at every level of government if we are going to beat back the dangerous agenda of the Trump administration and its Republican allies," Sanders said in a statement. "Now more than ever we need people in elected office who will fight for middle-income and working families."
The race between Perriello and Northam for the Democratic nomination has drawn comparisons to the race between Sanders and Clinton. A poll in late March found the two candidates were effectively deadlocked and that Perriello had made up ground, despite Northam being the establishment choice with tons of experience in the state. Perriello has been endorsed by former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and former Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, but Clinton supporters were more likely to back Northam and Sanders supporters were more likely to back Perriello, the poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University found.
Sanders praised Perriello, a former congressmen and diplomat, for his commitment to the $15 minimum wage, opposition to oil companies and push to reform the criminal justice system. And the Vermont senator also brought up health care as Republicans fight to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
"At a time when the Trump administration and congressional Republicans are fighting to destroy the Affordable Care Act, Tom is one who fought hard for its passage when he was a member of Congress," Sanders said in a statement. "He is a committed progressive who will stand up for working families in Richmond."
Perriello said Tuesday that he was happy to have Sanders' support.
"[Sanders] is a tireless fighter for working families," Perriello tweeted. "So proud to have his support in our campaign."
Correction: 4/4, 12:45 pm: This story has been corrected to reflect that Plouffe and Podesta have endorsed Periello, not Northam.
More from Newsweek