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Bernie Sanders Requests A Recanvass Of Voting In Kentucky's Primary

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Hillary Clinton is now fewer than 100 delegates away from clinching the Democratic nomination for president. And she's likely to get them in two weeks' time, when California, New Jersey and four other states cast their votes. For his part, Bernie Sanders is promising a contest to the very end.

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BERNIE SANDERS: Democracy is messy. I have - every day of my life is messy. But if you want everything to be quiet and orderly and allow, you know, just things to proceed without vigorous debate, that is not what democracy is about.

MONTAGNE: Just yesterday, the Sanders campaign bought a million and a half dollars' worth of ads here in California. And he wants Kentucky to take a second pass on its primary results, where he and Clinton were less than half a percentage point apart. In our studio to talk about all this is Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley. He is the only U.S. senator to endorse Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Welcome.

JEFF MERKLEY: Good morning, Renee. It's great to be with you.

MONTAGNE: And Sanders wants Kentucky to check its voting machines and absentee ballots to see if that will change the result. But that would get him, perhaps, one extra delegate. What does that really get him?

JEFF MERKLEY: Well, he's simply saying we want to make sure the folks in Kentucky have their votes registered in an accurate way. And that's a reasonable thing to ask when there's a very small gap between the two - the outcome.

MONTAGNE: All right. So - but it's a point of honor or a point of philosophy.

JEFF MERKLEY: Yes.

MONTAGNE: OK. So Bernie Sanders wants one more debate before the June 7 primaries. Hillary Clinton has said no. What are Democratic voters in California, New Jersey and the other remaining states going to miss out on now that there is not going to be that debate?

JEFF MERKLEY: Well, it's really too bad because we have six states that are still yet to vote. They would like to hear the candidates come back together, see how they're continuing to address the issues in the world - international affairs, domestic affairs, living wage, jobs, the challenge of global warming, cash in corrupting our campaign system - all of these core issues that have been talked about in the campaign. But it's helpful to have kind of a refresher conversation going into the final six states.

MONTAGNE: You know, there's something else that's been talked about this past week or so. There have been complaints about the behavior of some of Sanders' supporters, harassing superdelegates, actually making death threats to the head of the Nevada Democratic Party. Do you understand why some Democrats feel trepidation when Sanders says the national convention could be messy?

JEFF MERKLEY: Well, certainly, what he's referring to is in a vibrant democracy, you have a vibrant conversation about the issues we face. It isn't all clean and sanitary. We should have issues raised at the convention, both regarding the rules, the role of superdelegates and so forth. But also, certainly about key issues and what the platform will look like.

But there's a very positive sign that occurred on Monday, and that is the DNC announced a restructuring of the national platform committee. And they gave six positions or chairs to Secretary Clinton and five to Bernie Sanders and four to the DNC. But basically, what it said is, yes, we're willing to hear all the voices at the convention. We're willing to have issues raised. And that's the type of respect and organization and fairness that paves the path for the two sides to come together when the dust clears.

MONTAGNE: Well, about that act by the Democratic National Committee, the DNC, Sanders is getting, in this case, an unusually large representation on the platform committee for a candidate who is in second place. So he'll have a big hand in writing the party platform heading into the fall campaign. How does he see this?

Is it a part of the political revolution that he says he wants to carry forward?

JEFF MERKLEY: Well, I can't say it's an unusually large representation to have 5 out of 15 seats, but it is an indication of the fact that his message is resonating profoundly. It is producing the grassroots energy. That grassroots energy is going to be incredibly important in terms of folks coming together.

If Secretary Clinton is our nominee, bringing people together and doing well in November is going to require a full unity, a full sense of energy and passion on the streets. And, certainly, we see that out of the Sanders campaign.

And my town halls in Oregon - I've had 24 of them since January - you just see a tremendous coming out of Bernie Sanders folks. And I haven't seen a single Hillary bumper sticker, pin, T-shirt, you name it. I mean, it is going to be - we will not win in November if Secretary Clinton is our nominee without a full partnership with Bernie Sanders' team.

MONTAGNE: Well, also a yes-or-no answer - will - do you think he'll endorse Hillary Clinton if it comes to that?

JEFF MERKLEY: Yes. If she wins a majority of the pledged delegates, a majority of the vote, that'll be the time for us to come together.

MONTAGNE: Senator, thank you. That's Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, the only U.S. senator to endorse Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.