August 3, 2020
This article was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Former President Barack Obama endorsed eight California Democratic candidates in November congressional races Monday, along with a South Bay Democrat who is competing against another Democrat for the state Senate.
Obama backed Democratic Reps. Josh Harder of Turlock (Stanislaus County) and TJ Cox of Fresno, along with four Orange County Democrats — Reps. Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda of Laguna Beach, Katie Porter of Irvine and Mike Levin of San Juan Capistrano. All six beat Republicans in 2018 to win their first terms.
Obama also endorsed Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who lost to Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), in a special election in May to fill out the remaining House term of Democrat Katie Hill, who resigned last year. Smith and Garcia are facing off again in the fall for the full two-year term.
The former president supported Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is running against former Rep. Darrell Issa for a vacant seat in northern San Diego County. It opened up when GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter resigned after pleading guilty to a felony count of misusing campaign funds.
The only non-congressional candidate to win Obama’s backing was Ann Ravel, who is running for state Senate to represent Santa Clara County against fellow Democrat Dave Cortese, a member of the county Board of Supervisors. Obama appointed Ravel to the Federal Election Commission in 2013.
“I’m proud to endorse this diverse and hopeful collection of thoughtful, empathetic and highly qualified Democrats,” Obama wrote in a Medium post. “If you’re in one of their districts … make sure you vote for them this fall. And if you can, vote early — by mail or in person.”
The Obama imprimatur is far from a sure-fire ticket to victory. In 2018, 232 candidates Obama endorsed won their elections and 110 candidates lost.
Obama did not endorse Brynne Kennedy, a Democrat who is challenging Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove (Sacramento County), in the Fourth Congressional District, which stretches across 10 counties from north of Sacramento to near Fresno. The former technology CEO has raised $1.4 million, slightly more than McClintock, who has raised $1.3 million. However, she has just $356,540 cash on hand, roughly half as much as he does.
Kennedy says she is in a virtual dead heat with McClintock, citing a poll of 650 likely voters done by Lake Research for her campaign and released last week. Last month, analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report downgraded McClintock’s chances for re-election slightly, tabbing the district as “likely Republican” instead of “solid Republican.”
Obama also didn’t endorse Democrat Phil Arballo, a financial adviser who is challenging Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare. Arballo has raised a healthy $2.1 million and has $449,126 cash on hand. But Nunes has raised $16.3 million and has $10 million on hand. Cook’s Political Report lists the race as “likely Republican.”