Washington – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president on Friday, opting for a close ideological ally over his fellow Minnesota Democrat, Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

"The most pressing issue of our time is inequality," Ellison said in a statement released by the Sanders campaign. "For working-class people, they can't really thrive and grow in this economy. And Bernie has the best prescriptions now and over the course of time has demonstrated the most consistent commitment to working families."

Ellison said in an interview that his endorsement of Sanders, whom he also backed over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic race, should not be seen as any kind of slight against Klobuchar, who is running as a more centrist Democrat.

"I definitely appreciate and admire Senator Klobuchar, I'm very proud of the work she's done," Ellison said. "But I have been a supporter of those policies that Senator Sanders is championing right now."

Ellison cited his own support of "Medicare for All" proposals as a major issue where he's closer politically to Sanders than Klobuchar. She has proposed universal health care with a public option that expands Medicare or Medicaid.

Most of Minnesota's other prominent Democrats endorsed Klobuchar: Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Tina Smith, and U.S. Reps. Angie Craig, Dean Phillips and Collin Peterson, among others. Rep. Ilhan Omar has not endorsed anyone, though she did appear with Sanders last week at a news conference touting a proposal to erase student debt and make college free.

Klobuchar has called such plans too expensive, offering a more moderate approach to bringing down college costs.

Ellison, a member of Congress from 2007 to the beginning of this year, was the second sitting member of Congress to endorse Sanders in 2016. The two frequently worked together on issues in Washington, and Ellison said they share a belief in transformative change to the U.S. political system.

"We need a paradigmatic shift in our politics. We need a hard correction toward basic democracy," Ellison said. "I think Bernie gives the American people the best chance at that."

Patrick Condon • 202-662-7452