Barack Obama Stars in Video Endorsing Democrat J.B. Pritzker

Pritzker, a venture capitalist and billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is running to unseat incumbent first-term GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner

Former President Barack Obama doubled down on his endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker.

"I am proud to endorse J.N. prizker to be the next governor of my home state of Illinois," he said in a new video. "And let me tell you why. It's simple. J.B. gets things done." 

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Pritzker, a venture capitalist and billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is running to unseat incumbent first-term GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Obama had previously announced he was endorsing Pritzker and his running mate state Rep. Juliana Stratton along with several candidates ahead of the November midterm elections. 

As a longtime Democratic fundraiser, Pritzker has deep ties to the party and the endorsement came as little surprise - though Rauner has run several ads containing leaked wiretap recordings of Pritzker - a 2008 Hillary Clinton supporter - using controversial language with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in discussing candidates to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate after he was elected president.

Wednesday's endorsement marked the second time Obama has backed Stratton. While he was president in March 2016, Obama offered his support in radio and television ads to help Stratton, a political newcomer, unseat embattled Rep. Ken Dunkin in Illinois' 5th District on Chicago's South Side. That contentious Democratic primary battle was the most expensive House race in Illinois history, drawing Obama back into the local politics of his hometown.

Statewide, Obama also endorsed state Sen. Kwame Raoul for Illinois Attorney General. Raoul faces Republican Erika Harold in the race to replace longtime AG Lisa Madigan, who announced in 2017 that she would not be seeking re-election.

Raoul was appointed to the Illinois State Senate seat Obama vacated when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, and used that appointment (invoking Obama's name) in television ads to distinguish himself and emerge victorious from a crowded Democratic primary field.

Obama also endorsed Sean Casten, running to replace U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam in the west suburban 6th Congressional District. Roskam is widely seen as one of the most vulnerable Congressional Republicans, as he was one of several Republicans who won in 2016 despite the fact that his district voted in favor of Clinton for president.

The former president also endorsed Brendan Kelly, who is challenging GOP Rep. Mike Bost in Illinois' 12th Congressional District, as well as Lauren Underwood, running to unseat Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren.

The six Illinois endorsements were among dozens of names released earlier this month in what Obama called the "first wave" of his midterm support.

"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," Obama said in a statement.

"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," he continued. "But first, they need our votes – and I’m eager to make the case for why Democratic candidates deserve our votes this fall."

Obama planned to campaign in "several states" ahead of the midterm, he said, as well as issue a second round of endorsements ahead of the election on Nov. 6. 

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