Why Obama endorsed in a California Assembly race

In addition to endorsing Democrat Gavin Newsom (no surprise) in the race for governor, former President Barack Obama stepped into a Bay Area Assembly race, endorsing first-time candidate Buffy Wicks over Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles.

There’s history: Wicks was an early employee of Obama’s first presidential campaign, was a grassroots organizer for the 2008 and 2012 races and was an integral part of the White House effort to generate support for the Affordable Care Act.

Several former Obama administration officials have donated to her, including Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod and 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe.

You might figure Wicks’ credentials would mesh with the state’s most liberal districts. She’s a veteran of organized labor’s campaign against Wal-Mart. But the National Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Beckles, as did the California Labor Federation.

Steve Smith of the Labor Fed: “It primarily boils down to the fact that Beckles is known and has been a solid vote for working people …  Wicks was less of a known commodity to them.”

Money matters: Beckles enters the general election with $25,000 in the bank to Wicks’ $101,000. Wicks has received donations from Sacramento players including the California Medical and Dental associations. Govern for California, a political action committee founded by David Crane (a CALmatters donor), spent more than $450,000 on an independent campaign during the primary for Wicks.

This story originally appeared in WhatMatters, our daily roundup of the most important policy and politics news in California. Subscribe here.

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