Obama Doesn't Endorse House Candidate Serving on Advisory Board of Michelle's Education Initiative

Barack Obama
Getty Images
August 2, 2018

California Democratic congressional candidate Gil Cisneros, who currently serves on former First Lady Michelle Obama's 'Reach Higher' advisory board, did not receive one of the 81 endorsements annoucened from former President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

Obama unveiled the list of Democratic candidates he supports in a tweet, which shows his endorsements across 14 states, including 10 endorsements in California on the state and federal levels.

"Today I’m proud to endorse such a wide and impressive array of Democratic candidates – leaders as diverse, patriotic, and big-hearted as the America they’re running to represent," Obama tweeted. "I’m confident that, together, they’ll strengthen this country we love by restoring opportunity, repairing our alliances and standing in the world, and upholding our fundamental commitment to justice, fairness, responsibility, and the rule of law. But first, they need our votes."

While Obama only endorsed one Democratic senate candidate and also didn't endorse several Democratic House candidates, the omission of Cisneros stands out because of his ties to the Obamas. Cisneros and his wife, Jacki, both serve on the advisory board for Michelle Obama's Reach Higher and Better Make Room education initiatives. The candidate also served on Obama's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Cisneros' campaign manager, Orrin Evans, had no comment when reached about Obama not endorsing Cisneros.

Jack Pandol, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, castigated Cisneros's candidacy, saying the "omission speaks volumes about Gil’s character and the campaign he’s running."

"Gil Cisneros is a flawed candidate whose baggage is dragging down his entire candidacy," said Pandol, referencing former California Assembly District 55 candidate Melissa Fazli's sexual harassment allegation against Cisneros earlier this year.

The Cisneros campaign has vehemently denied the "false allegations."

Nevertheless, Pandol said the "embarrassing omission" from Obama "speaks volumes about Gil’s character and the campaign he’s running."

Cisneros, who was formerly a member of the Republican Party and voted for Sen. John McCain's (R., Ariz.) presidential election in 2008, voted for Obama in 2012 and was an early backer of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.)  during the 2016 Democratic primary. He ultimately supported the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who would go on to lose to Donald Trump.

Obama’s office did not respond to a request for comment on this story, but it issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying the former president will "issue a second round of endorsements in advance of Nov. 6."

Cisneros is one of two California Democrats from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue Program who were not endorsed by Obama.