RICHMOND — Former president Barack Obama on Monday endorsed three Virginia Democrats running in competitive congressional races in November.
In his second wave of midterm endorsements, Obama gave the nod to Democrats Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer T. Wexton and Elaine Luria, who are all seeking to unseat Republican incumbents.
He also endorsed Democrat Ben Jealous to be Maryland’s next governor. Jealous, a former NAACP president, would be the state’s first black chief executive.
Obama also endorsed Jealous’s running mate, Susan Turnbull, Maryland’s House Speaker Michael E. Busch (Anne Arundel) and Courtney Watson, who is running for the House of Delegates in a Howard County district.
They were among 260 Democrats across the country running for House, Senate, governor or state legislatures to win Obama’s backing Monday.
Spanberger, who is challenging Rep. Dave Brat (R) in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, also received former vice president Joe Biden’s endorsement Monday.
“The Democratic Party has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people when we lead with conviction, principle, and bold, new ideas,” Obama said in a written statement. “Our incredible array of candidates up and down the ticket, all across the country, make up a movement of citizens who are younger, more diverse, more female than ever before. They’re Americans who aren’t just running against something, but for something. They’re running to expand opportunity and restore the honor and compassion that should be the essence of public service. I’m proud to endorse so many of them today, and I’m eager to continue making the case for why they deserve our votes this November.”
Obama made 81 midterm endorsements in August and has campaigned for Democrats in California, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. No Virginia or Maryland candidates were included in the initial round.
In his second wave of endorsements, Obama said he focused on close races, those that are redistricting priorities, candidates who worked for his administration or past campaigns, and races where he wants to build a pipeline of “diverse talent” to encourage the next generation of Democratic leaders.
The former president called Jealous “an accomplished civil rights leader, businessman, and advocate for working people.” The endorsement highlighted Jealous’s work in Maryland while he was NAACP chief, including repealing the death penalty and on referendums to uphold same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrants.
A Goucher Poll last month showed Jealous is losing a sizeable portion of Democrats and African Americans to Hogan, who has governed as a moderate and hopes to become the state’s first Republican governor to win reelection in more than 60 years. A Mason-Dixon poll released last week showed Jealous performing better among those constituencies.
In one of the most competitive House races in the country, Wexton (Loudoun), a Virginia state senator, is challenging Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in the 10th District, which covers parts of Northern Virginia. Democrats are trying to capitalize on President Trump’s unpopularity there to turn the seat blue for the first time in 38 years and potentially help the party win a majority in the House.
Luria, a retired Navy commander, is challenging Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R), a former Navy SEAL, in the 2nd District.
Earlier Monday, Biden endorsed Spanberger.
“In all my years in politics, I can say that Abigail is the only former CIA Operative and Girl Scout Leader that I have had the good fortune to endorse,” Biden said in a written statement. “And I’m proud to do so because I know Abigail has what it takes to win in November. As a member of Congress, Abigail will work across the aisle to deliver common sense solutions and have a lasting and positive impact on the lives of the people of the 7th District.”
Biden, who is considering a 2020 presidential bid, has endorsed 14 other candidates for federal, state and local offices around the country this year, according to Ballotpedia. But this is the first Virginia race he has waded into since last year, when he campaigned for now-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and endorsed five Democrats in House of Delegates races.
“I am incredibly humbled by Vice President Biden’s gracious endorsement,” Spanberger said in a written statement. “Because of his steadfast leadership, enduring optimism, and abiding belief in the power of public service, Vice President Biden has played a transformational role in shaping the future of our country for the better. His support of our campaign is continued proof we are fighting the good fight, and my team and I are proud to have earned his support.”
Spanberger, a former CIA officer making her first bid for elective office, is in a tight race with Brat, who won the seat four years ago after toppling then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary.
A Monmouth University poll released last week found Spanberger leads Brat 47 percent to 42 percent among all potential voters in the central Virginia district, a longtime GOP stronghold that’s a mix of Richmond suburbs and rural areas. The poll found 2 percent favor Libertarian Joe Walton, and 9 percent are undecided.
Brat was a little-known Randolph-Macon College economics professor with tea party backing when he pulled off his stunning primary upset over Cantor. He won reelection two years ago by 16 percentage points.
This year, Brat is contending with a strong challenge from Spanberger, who could benefit from antipathy toward Trump in the district’s suburban areas. The Cook Political Report classifies the race as a “toss-up.”
“Congress is only as good as the women and men who serve there,” Biden said in his endorsement. “That means we must do everything in our power to ensure principled, courageous, and honorable public servants run for office and win. Abigail has proved herself to be one of those people.”
Erin Cox contributed to this report.