National Politics

Obama endorses Gillum for Florida governor. But he snubs Shalala in Congress race

Former President Barack Obama released a number of endorsements Monday.
Former President Barack Obama released a number of endorsements Monday. New York Times

Former President Barack Obama endorsed Andrew Gillum Monday in the race for Florida governor but snubbed at least one high-profile Miami congressional candidate as he rolled out dozens of endorsements in key state and federal races across the country.

Obama’s endorsement gives Gillum, the 39-year-old mayor of Tallahassee, support from the trifecta of top-level Democratic party leaders as he campaigns to succeed term-limited Gov. Rick Scott in a hard-fought race against Ron DeSantis, a Trump-endorsed former congressman.

Gillum campaigned during the primary with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and later this month will bring former first lady Hillary Clinton to South Florida.

“Andrew is a proven fighter with the courage and determination to stand up for Florida families,” Obama said in a statement released by the Gillum campaign. “As Governor, Andrew will expand access to affordable healthcare, protect Floridians with pre-existing conditions, invest in education, protect the environment and build an economy that works for all.”

Obama’s endorsement of Gillum reinforces the importance that Democrats from around the country are placing on the Florida governor’s race. On Saturday, billionaire Tom Steyer, who’s putting more than $5 million behind Gillum this election, called it the most important race in the country.

Obama announced his support for Gillum amid dozens of other endorsements of Democrats running in competitive races up and down the ballot in states across the country. In Florida, he also endorsed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, congressional candidates Stephanie Murphy, Chris Hunter, Nancy Soderberg and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and Florida Senate candidates Janet Cruz, Annette Taddeo and David Perez, among others. State Reps. Nick Duran and Javier Fernandez also got nods from Obama.

Obama’s endorsements were also notable for who was not included: Though Mucarsel-Powell got a thumbs-up in her race to unseat Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Mary Barzee Flores did not get an Obama boost in her effort to beat incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. Nor did Donna Shalala get an endorsement as she carries Democrats’ hopes to flip the Miami seat held by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

In Miami Monday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Lujan Ray dismissed that Obama had overlooked Barzee Flores and Shalala. He said the three Miami congressional races are among the “top pickup opportunities in the country.”

And he noted that some Democrats were similarly alarmed after being left out when Obama rolled out his first round of endorsements.

“There’ll be a third round, there’s enough time even for a fourth round,” Lujan said. “I know they are always strategic in their thinking with rolling out endorsements.”

McClatchy DC reporter Lesley Clark contributed to this report.