Former President Barack Obama announced his endorsement of several candidates ahead of the November midterm elections, including six names on the ballot across his home state of Illinois.
At the top of the ticket, Obama gave his support to Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and his running mate state Rep. Juliana Stratton.
Pritzker, a venture capitalist and billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is running to unseat incumbent first-term GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.
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 by a slim margin 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 Wednesday 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.
The full list of Obama's endorsements reads as follows:
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)
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)
Andy Kim (U.S. House, NJ-3)
Tom Malinowski (U.S. House, NJ-7)
Debra Haaland (U.S. House, NM-1)
Daymon Ely (State House, District 23)
Natalie Figueroa (State House, District 30)
Antonio Delgado (U.S. House, NY-19)
Anna Kaplan (State Senate, District 7)
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)