Moderates Who Flipped House in ’18 Prominent in First Slate of Obama Endorsements

August 3, 2020 by Dan McCue
Former President Barack Obama, addresses the service during the funeral for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Thursday, July 30, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON – Moderates who flipped the House of Representatives to Democratic control after the 2018 election figure prominently in former President Barack Obama’s first slate of endorsements for the 2020 elections.

Obama endorsed 118 candidates in 17 states, announcing his preferences on Medium.com.

A second set of endorsements is planned for states whose primaries have not been held yet due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m proud to endorse this diverse and hopeful collection of thoughtful, empathetic, and highly qualified Democrats,” Obama wrote. “Together, these candidates will help us redeem our country’s promise by sticking up for working class people, restoring fairness and opportunity to our system, and fighting for the good of all Americans — not just those at the top.”

Among the endorsees who first won their seats in 2018, are Reps. Joe Cunningham, of South Carolina; Katie Porter, of California; Lauren Underwood, of Illinois; Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne, both of Iowa; Mikie Sherrill and Andy Kim, both of New Jersey; Antonio Delgado, of New York, Lizzie Fletcher, and Colin Allred, both of Texas; and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria, both of Virginia.

But the scope of the former president’s endorsements show he’s not only intent on helping Democrats maintain their majority in the House, he also wants to win back control of the Senate and flip key state legislative chambers ahead of the looming 2020 redistricting.

In all, Obama endorses 52 new and incumbent candidates for the House and five for the Senate.

Among candidates seeking Republican-held seats, the former president is supporting are Jackie Gordon of New York, who is vying to replace the retiring Representative Peter King; Wendy Davis, the Texas Democrat who is running against Representative Chip Roy; and Amy Kennedy in New Jersey, who is seeking to unseat Representative Jeff Van Drew, who flipped parties to become a Republican during the House impeachment proceedings.

Significantly, he is backing the Democratic challengers running for Senate against Republican incumbents in five states, including Colorado (John Hickenlooper), Iowa (Theresa Greenfield), Maine (Sara Gideon), North Carolina (Cal Cunningham) and South Carolina (Jaime Harrison).

Obama’s interest in key states is no surprise given his involvement with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an entity headed by his former attorney general, Eric Holder.

The former president is endorsing 19 candidates for the state House, where the Democrats need to win nine seats to take control of the lower chamber; five candidates for the State Senate in Pennsylvania and nine for the State House; six for the State House in Ohio; and 10 for the State House in North Carolina and five for the State Senate.

The only governor on Obama’s list in this round of endorsements is Roy Cooper of North Carolina, who this year clashed with President Donald Trump over COVID-19-related safety guidelines for the planned Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

Trump, in a fit of pique, temporarily moved the main convention events to Jacksonville, Fla., but had to relent and move back to North Carolina after a spike in coronavirus cases in the Sunshine State.

Since Memorial Day, Obama has been taking an increasingly active role in the 2020 campaign, appearing with and raising money for his former vice president, Joe Biden, and calling for changes to voting laws in remarks he delivered last week at the funeral of Rep. John Lewis in Atlanta.

During that speech the former president called on Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act, which Trump and Republican congressional leaders have left unchanged since the Supreme Court weakened the landmark law in 2012.

“You want to honor John? Let’s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for,” Obama said, arguing that the bipartisan praise for the Georgia congressman since his death isn’t enough.

Obama endorsed ending the Senate filibuster if that is what’s needed to pass an overhauled voting law. He called the procedural hurdle that effectively requires 60 votes to pass major legislation a “Jim Crow relic,” referring to the segregation era.

The Democratic-led House has adopted a sweeping rewrite of the Voting Rights Act, now named for Lewis. It faces opposition in the Republican-led Senate and likely couldn’t get 60 votes even if Democrats reclaim a narrow majority after the November elections.

Specifically, Obama called for all Americans being registered to vote automatically, restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences, expanding early voting, ending partisan gerrymandering of districts and making Election Day a national holiday.

“There are those in power doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws … even undermining the Postal Service in an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots,” Obama said.

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