Staffers from Obama agencies are getting involved in running for Congress, and given how many Republicans ran unopposed in the House in the last midterm cycle in 2014 (30 House, and Jeff Sessions in the Senate) it's good to see Democrats lining up to take on Trump regime Republicans.
Some House races have even drawn multiple former Obama hands into the arena. In Texas, former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough and ex-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have lined up behind Ed Meier, a former State Department official, while ex-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is backing his former employee, Colin Allred, who was also an Obama White House intern and professional football player. Meier and Allred are competing in a crowded primary to take on Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who didn’t attract a single Democratic opponent last year.
Alums of Obama’s State and Veterans Affairs departments are also among nine candidates facing off for the Democratic nomination in a Northern Virginia battleground district. And outside Detroit, the former chief of staff for the Obama administration’s auto bailout raked in donations from a host of former White House officials to get her campaign off the ground.
“What drew them to the Obama world are the same qualities that make them want to run for office,” said Erik Smith, a former Obama presidential campaign consultant. “But their participation is accelerated as the Obama diaspora moved home — more so since some would’ve stayed under a Democratic administration — and with Obama’s call to action in their heads, it drove people to run earlier than they would’ve otherwise.”
They're also getting the money to take the fight to the GOP from fellow Obama folks.
Fundraising disclosures for these candidates are littered with familiar Obama-era names: Antony Blinken, Obama’s deputy secretary of state; Tara McGuinness, a senior White House communications adviser; Cheryl Mills, former State Department counselor to Secretary Hillary Clinton; and Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, all gave to various congressional candidates who worked in the Obama administration. Donors hail from all parts of the administration, from agencies to inside the White House.
They’re giving to candidates like Andy Kim, who served on Obama’s NSC and is challenging New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur. In Michigan, Elissa Slotkin, a former Defense Department official, is running against Rep. Mike Bishop, and Haley Stevens, who helped administer the bailout of the automotive industry, is taking on GOP Rep. Dave Trott.
Lindsey Davis Stover, who served in the Department of Veterans Affairs under Obama, is in a nine-way primary to take on Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, which also features former State Department official Alison Kiehl Friedman. This week, another administration official — former Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ambassador Dan Baer — started a campaign for an open seat outside Denver.
“Being on people’s radar — who either know me or are one degree away from me and who know this campaign world and know that money makes a difference and that you need resources to put up the fight — is a really wonderful resource,” said Kim, whose opponent MacArthur is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. “The reality is that money is important as a first-time candidate.”
And of course the next question is "What about state races?" Yep. Gotcha covered.
It’s not limited to congressional candidates. Further down the ballot, Buffy Wicks, who helped craft Obama’s grass-roots-centric presidential campaigns and served in the White House, is running for a Berkeley-based state Assembly seat in California.
Her early donors include both of Obama’s presidential campaign managers, David Plouffe and Jim Messina, as well as a host of other colleagues from 2008 and 2012.
Informal listservs started by various Obama officials spread campaign announcements and donation requests. The Obama Alumni Association, which doesn’t endorse candidates, regularly sends emails to “update you on Obama alumni who are running for office," adding that it’s “thrilling to see so many alums willing to run, just as Barack Obama did more than 20 years ago.” In its July email, it flagged 23 new candidates.
“There’s no doubt we’ll see Obama alums run at a much higher rate in 2018 and 2020,” said Brent Colburn, a former Obama campaign and administration official who has hosted candidate meet-and-greets in the San Francisco Bay area.
“Even those of us who aren’t running are looking for ways we can give back and support the legacy of the president, so you’re not only seeing more people likely to run, but there’s also more of us who are more likely to hold fundraisers, host events for candidates and connect people to contacts in our network,” Colburn said.
I can't stress how much of a great idea this is. I also sense President Obama's hand informally behind this as well. The Dems need to run folks outside Obama's network too, in places where Obama had trouble, yes. But Dems also need to go after the places Barack Obama did well in too.
We need both, and I'm glad to see Obama alumni are holding up their end of the deal. The win the House back, we have to field candidates, period. No more freebies for the GOP.