Barack Obama waded back into Iowa election politics Wednesday with the endorsements of six candidates for statewide offices and legislative seats.
The former president, who carried Iowa in both 2008 and 2012, endorsed Democrats in four state legislative races — Eric Gjerde of Cedar Rapids, Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights, Laura Liegois of Muscatine and Kristin Sunde of West Des Moines.
He also endorsed Deidre DeJear for secretary of state candidate and Tim Gannon for secretary of agriculture.
He did not endorse Democrats in any of the four U.S. House races.
Obama, who has endorsed 81 candidates, indicated he will have another round of endorsements before the Nov. 6 election and also plans to campaign in several states.
The endorsement came as a surprise to Gjerde, who is challenging Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion.
Although the endorsement doesn’t come with funds or other campaign resources, he said it helps “to know that we have people watching us.”
Gjerde didn’t know how or why he was selected for Obama’s endorsement or how he gained designation as a Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee “Spotlight Race.”
“I think they just look at the voter registration numbers and what seats are flippable,” he said.
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Flipping House District 67 will be key to Democrats if they wish to win control of the Iowa House. Republicans had a 59-41 majority during the 2018 session.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said it sent recommendations to Obama for endorsement based on competitive races and seats Democrats need to flip in order to gain control of legislative chambers.
Gjerde, an admirer of Obama, said he and other Iowa Democrats are trying to bring a similar message of hope to Iowans who feel they’ve been left behind.
DeJear, who was a campus volunteer for Obama in 2008, was his statewide African American vote director in 2012.
She said her time working for the campaign “talking to hard-to-reach populations about why their vote matters, best prepared me for this role” as a candidate for secretary of state.
Gannon also worked on Obama’s campaign before serving in the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the eight years of Obama’s administration. As secretary of agriculture, he said, he will “work to raise farm income back to the record levels experienced during the Obama administration.”
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