Former President Barack Obama on Monday endorsed 260 Democrats running for federal and state-level offices, throwing his weight behind far-left upstarts and longtime incumbents as he wades further into the 2018 midterms.
The “second wave” of Mr. Obama’s endorsements includes Ben Jealous for Maryland governor and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for U.S. representative in New York — two Democrats among many this year who have embraced liberal policies like Medicare-for-all and marijuana legalization.
The former president’s office said his endorsements spanned close races where his imprimatur could make a difference, contests key to the redistricting process following the 2020 census, and races that feature administration or campaign alumni — with an toward building a pipeline of “diverse talent” and elevating the “next generation” of party leaders.
“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,” Mr. Obama said.
The round of endorsements comes after the primary season has generally concluded for the year, though Mr. Obama in May did endorse California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is facing a Democratic challenge from state Sen. Kevin de León. He also endorsed 81 other candidates in August.
The list released Monday included Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Socialists of America member who toppled 10-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in a June primary in New York.
He endorsed a number of gubernatorial candidates, including Mr. Jealous and Andrew Gillum in Florida, after he had endorsed Stacey Abrams of Georgia in August. Those three candidates are trying to become first elected black governor in their respective states.
Mr. Obama said Mr. Jealous, who has been trailing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan by double digits in recent polls, has the “vision, experience, and courage to move families forward.”
He said Mr. Jealous was a leader in the state in pushing for college tuition benefits for certain illegal immigrants, legalizing gay marriage, expanding voting rights, and abolishing the death penalty.
Mr. Jealous said he was “honored” by the endorsement.
“Across the country, progressive candidates are seeking to build on the successes of his administration and continue to deliver real solutions for working people,” he said.
Mr. Obama also endorsed a number of candidates in Senate races, including Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Tina Smith of Minnesota, as well as Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who is running against GOP Rep. Martha McSally in the open seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake.
The McSally campaign said the endorsement is evidence that Ms. Sinema — who once described herself as a “Prada socialist” — is a “proud liberal Democrat.”
“This endorsement shatters the fake charade of Kyrsten Sinema as an ‘independent,’” said McSally campaign spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair.
Mr. Obama’s endorsements in House races included incumbent Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida, as well as Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, an upstart liberal candidate who defeated 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano in a primary in Massachusetts last month.
In response to Mr. Obama’s endorsements Monday, the Republican National Committee pointed out that the former president has had a poor track record in helping lift up Democratic candidates after he was first elected in 2008.
“President Obama oversaw [the] slowest economic recovery in modern history and it cost Democrats more than 1,000 seats,” said RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens. “By tying these candidates to his failed economic policies, he’s helping ensure they suffer the same fate.”
Mr. Obama has become increasingly active in 2018 politics in recent months, campaigning and raising money for candidates in a handful of states, and raising money for a national political group focused on redistricting and helmed by Eric Holder, who served as his attorney general.
The 44th president also delivered a withering criticism of President Trump in a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign last month — a break from former President George W. Bush, who generally avoided commenting publicly on Mr. Obama’s tenure.
“Over the past few decades, the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party,” Mr. Obama said. “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”
Mr. Trump responded by joking that he fell asleep when he tried to watch it.
But Rep. Steve Stivers, who chairs the House GOP’s campaign arm, said he would welcome the former president back into the political fray, saying Mr. Obama was a solid motivator for the GOP during the 2010, 2012, and 2014 cycles.
“So for three cycles President Obama fired up Republicans like nobody, and I’m happy if he wants to do it again,” Mr. Stivers, Ohio Republican, told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor last month.