Obama wades into California midterm—with a few surprises

For former President Barack Obama, life after the Oval Office isn’t just Beyonce concerts and ham sandwiches with Joe Biden. This morning, he took the opportunity to leave his mark on national politics by endorsing 81 candidates before the November midterm election. Among them were ten Democrats in California. Some were obvious choices, though others—both of omission and commission—not so much.

Falling into the obvious camp is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor against Republican John Cox. When Cox was endorsed by President Trump last May, that nod of approval helped the little known Republican beat out the rest of the crowded field for the number two spot.

The endorsement from Obama isn’t likely to hurt in most parts of the Golden State, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1. The former president also made endorsements in some of the most high profile congressional races—GOP-held seats that Democrats hope to flip on their way to take back control of the House of Representatives.

But there may be some districts where the Obama-association is counterproductive. Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of Roseville, for example, represents the congressional district with the highest number of registered Republicans in the state. Rep. Devin Nunes’s district in and around Visalia ranks third. Though both districts are targeted as pick up opportunities by many blue-affiliated groups, like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, neither of the Democratic candidates, Jessica Morse and Andrew Janz, received the nod from Obama today.

Gil Cisneros, a Democrat who is hoping replace retiring Republican congressman Ed Royce in what is widely considered to be one of the most competitive races in the state, was also left off Obama’s endorsement list.

The former president also weighed in on two races in which Democrats are facing off against one another. Under California’s top two electoral system, the first and second place winner in the primary move on to the general election, even if both candidates are from the same party.

In the race of lieutenant governor, Obama endorsed Eleni Kounalakis over California state senator, Ed Hernandez. And in his only endorsement of a California state legislative race, he also endorsed Buffy Wicks in an East Bay assembly district over fellow Democrat and Richmond City Council member, Jovanka Beckles. Kounalakis was U.S. Ambassador to Hungary under the Obama administration. Wicks was a staffer in both of Obama’s presidential campaigns.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is running for a fifth term against Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Léon, received the former president’s endorsement in early May.

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