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Obama jumps into mid-terms; endorses Pritzker, Raoul, Casten, Kelly, Underwood

Former President Barack Obama. | Sun-Times file photo

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday endorsed 81 Democrats – including Illinois contenders J.B. Pritzker, Kwame Raoul, Sean Casten, Lauren Underwood and Brendan Kelly – avoiding divisive feuds by staying out of states that have not yet held primaries.

“This is just the first batch,” Obama adviser Eric Schultz told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We couldn’t get everyone done in one batch. So we are going to keep plowing our way through.”

A Democrat endorsing a Democratic nominee is routine.

What the Obama list signifies is who Obama is going to do something to help in advance of the November mid-terms.

Obama’s priority list of 81 was put together in consultation with the Democratic House and Senate political operations and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by Eric Holder, who was Obama’s first Attorney General. The redistricting group is focused on electing Democrats in target states to gain control of remaps following the 2020 Census.

The 81 also includes 20 alums from the Obama White House and Obama’s two campaigns running for state legislative seats, governorships, other statewide offices and Congress.

Underwood, a health policy adviser in the Obama administration where she worked at the Department of Health and Human Services, is battling Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., in the suburban 14th Congressional District.

Former Obama administration officials who have hosted fundraisers for Underwood include Valerie Jarrett, an Obama senior adviser who plays key roles in his post-presidency; former Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Mike Strautmanis, who worked with Jarrett in the Obama White House and now is an executive at the Obama Presidential Foundation.

The details of when Obama will hit the road and what kind of events he will do – or ads he will cut – or robo calls he will record – have yet to be determined.

Obama is popular with the Democratic base and has largely stayed out of the debate of the future of the Democratic party being played in out in various primaries and the developing 2020 Democratic presidential field.

In Illinois, Obama’s home state, his backing will help get-out-the-vote – but that does not guarantee victory. In 2014, Obama and then first lady Michelle stumped for Quinn and he lost to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The dynamics of 2018 are different – starting with Democratic activism at a high as a result of the election of President Donald Trump.

Obama alluded to Trump in his statement about the 81. “I’m confident that, together, they’ll strengthen this country we love by restoring opportunity that’s broadly shared, repairing our alliances and standing in the world, and upholding our fundamental commitment to justice, fairness, responsibility, and the rule of law.”

Pritzker’s campaign manager Anne Caprara told the Sun-Times Obama’s political impact is magnified in Illinois, his adopted home state because voters “feel a special connection to the president and the Obama’s in general.”

With Democratic voter enthusiasm in Illinois increasing, with an Obama jolt, “it is just another way to motivate them to get out and vote,” Caprara said.

Raoul, a state senator from Chicago’s South Side, running for Attorney General, replaced Obama in Springfield after he was elected a U.S. Senator in 2004.

Raoul faces Republican nominee Erika Harold for spot being vacated by Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan. In the Trump era, the Attorney Generals are increasingly important in filing legal challenges to uphold or end Trump policies.

“We have lived in the same neighborhood, represented the same communities and worked to address many of the same “challenges. His confidence is meaningful to me,” Raoul said in a statement.

Vice President Mike Pence has traveled to Illinois recently to do events for GOP Illinois Reps. Peter Roskam and Mike Bost, being challenged for the downstate 12th District seat by Kelly, the St. Clair State’s Attorney.

Casten, taking on Roskam in the suburban 6th District – one of the battlegrounds for control of the House – said in a statement, “Like many, I miss a President who put facts over politics … Obama showed us how great we can be, and I look forward to continuing to advance his – and our – collective agenda.”


Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, testing the waters for a 2020 presidential run, headlines the Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association brunch on Aug. 16, during the Illinois State Fair – an event designed to fire up the base in the final weeks of the campaigns.

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Below, the Obama list…




WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama today announced his endorsement of dozens of candidates in advance of November’s midterm elections. This large, diverse contingent comprises 81 candidates from across the country in federal, state and down-ballot races.

“I’m proud to endorse such a wide and impressive array of Democratic candidates – leaders as diverse, patriotic, and big-hearted as the America they’re running to represent,” said President Obama. “I’m confident that, together, they’ll strengthen this country we love by restoring opportunity that’s broadly shared, repairing our alliances and standing in the world, and upholding our fundamental commitment to justice, fairness, responsibility, and the rule of law. But first, they need our votes – and I’m eager to make the case for why Democratic candidates deserve our votes this fall.”

President Obama believes our long-term challenges can be addressed best when we all take a more active role in our democracy. That’s why he is dedicating his post-Presidency efforts to identifying and elevating the next generation of leaders. In issuing this first round of endorsements, President Obama hopes to help current and aspiring Democratic leaders establish themselves, build their profiles, and lead their communities.

This fall, President Obama will prioritize supporting redistricting targets recommended by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), taking back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and growing the U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus. Today’s endorsements also include several promising Obama Administration and campaign alumni who heeded the President’s call in his farewell speech to “grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”

Since leaving office, President Obama has remained politically active, campaigning and issuing endorsements in key races in 2017, and holding fundraisers for the NDRC, the DNC, the DCCC and the DSCC.

He expects to campaign in several states this fall and to issue a second round of endorsements in advance of Nov. 6.


Gavin Newsom (Governor)

Eleni Kounalakis (Lt. Governor)

Josh Harder (U.S. House, CA-10)

TJ Cox (U.S. House, CA-21)

Katie Hill (U.S. House, CA-25)

Katie Porter (U.S. House, CA-45)

Harley Rouda (U.S. House, CA-48)

Mike Levin (U.S. House, CA-49)

Ammar Campa-Najjar (U.S. House, CA-50)

Buffy Wicks (State Assembly, District 15)


Jared Polis (Governor)

Dianne Primavera (Lt. Governor)

Phil Weiser (Attorney General)

Jena Griswold (Secretary of State)

Tammy Story (State Senate, District 16)

Jessie Danielson (State Senate, District 20)

Brittany Pettersen (State Senate, District 22)

Faith Winter (State Senate, District 24)

Dylan Roberts (State House, District 26)

Dafna Michaelson Jenet (State House, District 30)

Shannon Bird (State House, District 35)

Rochelle Galindo (State House, District 50)

Julie McCluskie (State House, District 61)


Stacey Abrams (Governor)

Sarah Riggs Amico (Lt. Governor)

Matthew Wilson (State House, District 80)

Shelly Hutchinson (State House, District 107)

• Illinois

• J.B. Pritzker (Governor)

• Juliana Stratton (Lt. Governor)

• Kwame Raoul (Attorney General)

• Sean Casten (U.S. House, IL-6)

• Brendan Kelly (U.S. House, IL-12)

• Lauren Underwood (U.S. House, IL-14)


Deidre DeJear (Secretary of State)

Tim Gannon (Secretary of Agriculture)

Kristin Sunde (State House, District 42)

Jennifer Konfrst (State House, District 43)

Eric Gjerde (State House, District 67)

Laura Liegois (State House, District 91)


Louis Luchini (State Senate, District 7)

Laura Fortman (State Senate, District 13)

Linda Sanborn (State Senate, District 30)


Jacky Rosen (U.S. Senate)

Susie Lee (U.S. House, NV-3)

Steven Horsford (U.S. House, NV-4)

New Jersey

Andy Kim (U.S. House, NJ-3)

Tom Malinowski (U.S. House, NJ-7)

New Mexico

Debra Haaland (U.S. House, NM-1)

Daymon Ely (State House, District 23)

Natalie Figueroa (State House, District 30)

New York

Antonio Delgado (U.S. House, NY-19)

Anna Kaplan (State Senate, District 7)

North Carolina

Wiley Nickel (State Senate, District 16)

Ron Wesson (State House, District 1)

Terence Everitt (State House, District 35)

Julie Von Haefen (State House, District 36)

Sydney Batch (State House, District 37)

Rachel Hunt (State House, District 103)


Richard Cordray (Governor)

Betty Sutton (Lt. Governor)

Steve Dettelbach (Attorney General)

Kathleen Clyde (Secretary of State)

Zack Space (Auditor)

Aftab Pureval (U.S. House, OH-1)

Jill Schiller (U.S. House, OH-2)

Phil Robinson (State House, District 6)

Stephanie Howse (State House, District 11)

Mary Lightbody (State House, District 19)

Beth Liston (State House, District 21)

Allison Russo (State House, District 24)

Erica Crawley (State House, District 26)

Tavia Galonski (State House, District 35)

Casey Weinstein (State House, District 37)

Taylor Sappington (State House, District 94)


Madeleine Dean (U.S. House, PA-4)

Susan Wild (U.S. House, PA-7)

Tina Davis (State Senate, District 6)

Liz Hanbidge (State House, District 61)

Carolyn Comitta (State House, District 156)


Adrienne Bell (U.S. House, TX-14)

Colin Allred (U.S. House, TX-32)