WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama released his first slate of 2020 candidate endorsements on Monday, putting his considerable political weight behind 118 candidates up and down the ballot in 17 states.
Obama endorsed five Democratic Senate challengers in some of the nation's most closely watched races, those in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina.
"Together, these candidates will help us redeem our country's promise by sticking up for working people, restoring fairness and opportunity to our system, and fighting for the good of all Americans — not just those at the top," Obama said in a statement.
The Democratic candidates in several high-profile Senate races are notably absent from the list, such as Mark Kelly in Arizona and Steve Bullock in Montana. In Kelly's case, the former astronaut's primary is on Tuesday and Obama's announcement specified that endorsed candidates hail from states that have already completed those contests.
Bullock, however, is one of several Democratic Senate challengers missing from the list because they're running in traditionally red states — places where an endorsement from Obama might not necessarily help a candidate in a statewide race. The other states are Kentucky, Georgia and Texas.
Other notable endorsements from the former president included dozens of state legislative candidates in Texas, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, all states where control of one or both of the chambers is being tightly contested this year. The party that controls a state's legislature is virtually guaranteed to have outsize influence over the 2021 redistricting that will follow the 2020 census.
According to a statement from his office, Obama selected candidates "because their election would advance key goals: winning control of the U.S. Senate and holding the majority in the U.S. House; electing Democrats who will support fair redistricting in 2021; supporting alumni of his campaigns and Administration; and promoting diverse, emerging leaders for this time."
The endorsements are the latest step in Obama's growing engagement on the 2020 political battlefield. Since the beginning of June, Obama has raised approximately $24 million at virtual fundraisers for his former vice president, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. He has also filmed spots with Biden that were widely shared on social media.
Obama is also expected to speak at the Democratic National Convention later this month. Last week, Obama delivered a stirring eulogy for the late civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis, in which he called for expanded voting rights.
"Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws ... attacking our voting rights with surgical precision," he said.
See all of Obama's endorsements here.