Jeff Merkle (D-OR-Senator)i
Senate links: Jeff Merkley (D-OR-Senate)i
Campaign links: Jeff Merkley (D-OR-Senate)i
Jeffrey Alan “Jeff” Merkley
Jeff Merkle Senatorial Candidate Oregon
Biography of Jeff Merkle from Senate.gov
Jeff Merkley, the son of a millwright and first in his family to attend college, has spent his whole life fighting for the public interest. Born in Myrtle Creek, Oregon and spending his childhood in Roseburg, Merkley knows what it’s like to live in both rural and urban Oregon and represents all of Oregon in his work in the United States Senate. His policy education came first from his father, Darrell, who after work each day would read the newspaper, watch the evening news, and run a commentary on how we could improve our nation. Growing up in a middle-class family, Merkley stands firmly on the side of working people during these tough economic times.
Merkley’s public service began as a 19-year-old intern with Oregon’s former Senator, Mark O. Hatfield. Never in Merkley’s wildest dreams did he anticipate that he would return to the Senate 33 years later to represent Oregon in Hatfield’s former seat. He considers it a great honor and a great challenge.
Between Merkley’s college internship on Capitol Hill and his election to the U.S. Senate in 2008, Merkley immersed himself in public service. As a national security analyst at the Pentagon and at the Congressional Budget Office, Merkley contributed to the dialogue on responsible management of nuclear weapons. In 1991 Merkley returned to Oregon to lead Portland’s Habitat for Humanity, which works to empower low-income families through home ownership. Merkley later served as President of the Oregon World Affairs Council, expanding the K-12 education program and launching an International Speakers Series that has brought dozens of distinguished leaders to Oregon such as Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama.
Merkley won his first campaign for State Representative in 1998. He was elected Democratic Leader in 2003 and Speaker in 2007. As Oregon’s House Speaker, Merkley emphasized replacing bitter partisan warfare with a culture of bipartisan problem solving. The result was a legislative session described by The Oregonian as “Oregon’s most productive in a generation.” The legislature increased education funding, expanded access to affordable prescription drugs, passed landmark environmental and energy legislation, established domestic partnerships, cracked down on predatory payday and title lending, and created Oregon’s first-ever rainy day fund.
Since his election to the United States Senate, Merkley has been focused on getting our nation back on track and Oregonians back to work. He has released a nationally recognized plan to eliminate overseas oil by 2030 by boosting deployment of electric vehicles, increase travel options and improve infrastructure, develop alternative transportation fuels and reduce the use of oil to heat buildings. To take on the high-risk Wall Street trading that got us into the financial crisis, Merkley worked with Senator Carl Levin of Michigan to include in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act new limits on risky trading by banks. Merkley worked to end deceptive retail mortgage lending practices, and led successful efforts to pass a ban on both hidden steering payments to reward selling consumers high-risk and high-cost home loans, and on prepayment penalties, which locked people into those bad loans. Merkley also successfully included a provision in the 2010 health care reform law that ensures new mothers have the time and space to pump milk at work.
Merkley serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; and the Budget Committee.
Merkley and his wife Mary Sorteberg have been married for nineteen years and have two children, Brynne and Jonathan.
Biography of Jeff Merkle from Jeff Merkley for Oregon
Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley has spent his lifetime in public service, and his entire career has been animated by a simple philosophy: that each of us has a responsibility to make the community, the nation, and the planet a better place.
He got his start as an intern for Oregon’s U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, and went on to serve as a national security analyst, first for the Pentagon and then for Congress. After returning to Oregon with his wife Mary, Jeff led Habitat for Humanity and worked with low-income families to rebuild neighborhoods and help scores of Oregonians purchase their first home. Following a lifelong interest in building bridges internationally that began as a high school exchange student in Ghana and later brought him to work in India and Mexico, Jeff became President of the World Affairs Council in Portland, expanding the organization’s educational programs.
The son of a sawmill worker, Jeff spent his early years in Myrtle Creek and Roseburg, Oregon, where his parents impressed upon him the importance of honest work, good schools, and strong families. Jeff worked hard, earned scholarships and became the first in his family to go to college. He attended Stanford University and later earned a Masters in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. As a 19-year-old Senate intern from a working-class background, Jeff never imagined that he would someday have the privilege of serving in the U.S. Senate himself, and he is committed to ensuring that everyone has the same opportunity to live their dreams that he has had.
Jeff took his fight for opportunity and working families into the state legislature in 1998, and in 2006, Jeff led a band of new leaders to take control of the Oregon House and end the gridlock in state government. As the first Democratic speaker in sixteen years and with only a two-seat majority, Jeff brought Democrats, Republicans and citizens together to make real progress addressing Oregon’s challenges. Jeff’s session as Speaker was described by the Oregonian as “Oregon’s most productive in a generation.”
In 2008, Oregonians took note of his thoughtful, solutions-oriented policy-making style and made Jeff the first Oregonian to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in over 40 years.
A member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, Jeff has been a strong voice for health care reform, particularly pushing to expand access to affordable insurance to small businesses and working families. He has emerged as a leading proponent of capturing the clean energy revolution to strengthen the American economy, and serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
From his first days in the Senate and on the Banking Committee, Jeff has forcefully argued for strategies to help families at risk of losing their homes and to correct the failures that led to the financial crisis. He was also honored to take the baton from the late Senator Ted Kennedy as the lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and has made full equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans a signature priority.
Jeff and his wife, Mary, a professional nurse, have two children, Jonathan and Brynne, and an Airedale terrier, Sadie.