“It really was a deep struggle,” Bilbray, the daughter of a former congressman, said of her support, announced during a Sanders swing through the early caucus state of Nevada that wrapped up Monday.
The endorsement was Sanders’s 11th to date from a superdelegate -- and it underscores how big of an advantage Clinton has on that count.
The roughly 700 Democratic elected officials and party leaders who are superdelegates get a say in the presidential nominating process and are not bound by voting in their home states. Collectively, they’ll account for about 1 of every 5 delegates at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
As of last month, 359 of them had publicly pledged to back Clinton, according to a tally by the Associated Press, a reflection of the former secretary of state's widespread support among the Democratic establishment. The Clinton campaign declined to offer a number of its own.
Sanders’s count of 11 -- up from eight identified by the AP last month -- includes himself, aides said. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, the third Democratic hopeful, had the backing of two superdelegates in the AP survey.
Sanders’s camp has argued that some superdelegates are likely to switch allegiances if Sanders can demonstrate strength in the early nominating states and show he has a real shot of winning the nomination.
In an interview, Bilbray made a similar point about her state of Nevada, which holds its caucuses on Feb. 20, shortly after the first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Bilbray, the founder of Emerge Nevada, a nonprofit organization that trains and recruits women to become politically active, hosted a lunch for Sanders in her home this week.
When looking for women leaders to invite, Bilbray said she feared many of her contacts would already be supporting Clinton. But she said she was surprised to discover how many still have an open mind.
“They needed someone to tell them it’s okay,” she said.