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Fired up by Trump, dozens of Obama alums launch bids for office

Civil rights attorney Colin Allred left his job at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in January 2017 deeply concerned about the incoming Trump administration.

Back home in the Dallas-area district where he grew up, he decided to heed the words of the president he had served: If you’re unhappy with your elected officials, run for office yourself.


Allred, who launched his bid to challenge Republican Rep. Pete Sessions in April 2017, is one of at least 64 of President Barack Obama’s former staffers running for federal, state, or local elective office this year, according to the Obama Alumni Association, a group run by former members of his two administrations.More could announce bids in the coming weeks as filing deadlines for candidates near in states that have yet to hold their primaries. The group also expects the tally to grow as more Obama-affiliated candidates get in touch to add their name to the list.

Some are running for city council, others for governor. At least 28 are running for the House of Representatives, including Allred in Texas’ 32nd Congressional District. He won a primary run-off last week, defeating another Obama alum, Lillian Salerno. (Four other alums have won their House primaries so far, while one other has lost.)

The groundswell of Democratic candidates with ties to the former president — channeling their former boss’s demeanor and politics, tapping into an extensive alumni network for fundraising and volunteers, and levying significant political muscle ahead of the 2018 midterm elections — could fill state and federal legislatures with likeminded allies, many of whom are young or diverse or both.

Tom Malinowski
Tom Malinowski speaks at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2016.Heng Sinith / AP file

Many Obama alums are fired up to push back against President Donald Trump, a figure who rose to political prominence with racially-charged accusations about Obama’s citizenship.


“Looking back on last year, it was the effort to take down the Affordable Care Act with no viable replacement. It was the Muslim ban, and attacks on immigrants, it was the tearing up of alliances and commitments internationally. It was the taking down of environmental protections, it was refusing to invest in infrastructure as Trump had promised,” said Tom Malinowski, 52, the former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor now running for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District.

“And the silence and active complicity of Republicans, particularly in the House of Republicans,” he added.

Malinowski decided that flipping control of the House of Representatives would help right the course of the nation. If he wins the Democratic primary on June 5, he’ll attempt to unseat Republican Rep. Leonard Lance.

Ammar Campa-Najjar

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