Obama Aides Running For Office, Smile Study, Confederate Monuments To Be Removed From Madison Cemetery

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Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has ordered the removal of memorials to Confederate soldiers that are currently in a Madison cemetery. We talk with a historian about the implications. Around the country, former staffers for Barack Obama are launching Congressional campaigns of their own. We find out what their motivations are and examine their chances. And the director of a new study at UW-Madison joins us to talk about deciphering the meaning behind people’s smiles.

Featured in this Show

  • Obama Alums Running For Office

    With Trump’s White House victory less than six months old, several former staffers of former President Obama are launching their own bids for public office. We’ll find out more.

  • Numerous Obama Staffers Running For Office In 2018

    Lots of everyday people, including a stay-at-home mom, an oncologist and a video game developer, are running for public office in 2018.


    They’re all Democrats reacting to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, and many say they weren’t even particularly political prior to the 2016 election.

    “Candidates are sort of falling from trees at this point; there’s just so much interest and energy around running for office on the Democratic side,” said Elena Schneider, a campaign reporter for Politico.

    Schneider wrote an article detailing another variety of Democrats eager toss their hats in the 2018 primary ring who are anything but political newcomers: former President Obama staffers.

    This particular group is certainly more likely to run for office than the average citizen, and many had it in their minds that they’d want to have a role in public service again, Schneider said.

    But Trump’s election and agenda to dismantle Obama-era policies did play a role in pushing many of these candidates to run sooner than they may have otherwise, and in some cases to run at all, she said.

    In crowded primaries against political newcomers, these candidates may have a leg up in the sense that they have “key connections, and key access to networks that can really provide a fundraising base that most first-time candidates will not have access to,” Schneider said.

    Obama hasn’t endorsed any of the candidates yet and is likely waiting to see who wins various primary elections, she said.

    Obama alums running in 2018 include a dozen who are running for the U.S. House of Representatives and dozens more running for down ballot positions, coming to about 50 candidates in total so far, Schneider said.

    Here are some of the former Obama campaign and administration staffers running for office in 2018:

    Colin Allred

    Running For: U.S. House of Representatives, Texas’ 32nd Congressional District
    Obama Administration Position: Special Assistant to the General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development

    Allred, a former NFL player and civil rights attorney, helped HUD Secretary Julián Castro (2014-2017) with the presidential transition when the Trump administration came in. He’s running against Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions.

    Andy Kim

    Running For: U.S. House of Representatives, New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District
    Obama Administration Position: National Security Council adviser

    Kim is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Tom MacArthur. Congressional Republicans’ push to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a key factor in Kim’s decision to run, Schneider said.

    January Contreras

    Running For: Arizona Attorney General
    Obama Administration Position: Senior adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2009

    Contreras is running against Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

    Betty Sutton

    Running For: Governor of Ohio
    Obama Administration Position: Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation from 2013 to 2017.

    Former U.S. Rep. of the 13th Congressional District in Ohio from 2007 to 2013 and state Rep. from 1993 to 2000. Sutton will be running against four Republicans and three fellow Democrats to take Gov. John Kasich’s seat. Kasich can’t seek re-election for a third consecutive term.

    Ashwani Jain

    Running For: Montgomery County Council
    Obama Administration And Campaign Positions: Maryland field coordinator, Obama for America from 2007 to 2009; Maryland student director, Organizing for America from 2009 to 2012; presidential personnel staff assistant for outreach and recruitment, Executive Office of the President, The White House from 2014 to 2015; deputy White House liaison, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2015 to 2016; director of outreach for the Cancer Moonshot Summit, Office of the Vice President, The White House in 2016; associate director of external affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2016 to 2017.

    After significant work at the federal level, Jain is hoping to get involved in local politics. He is running against 10 other Democrats, including another Obama alum, and one member of the Green Party who will only be in the general election.

    Deb Haaland

    Running For: U.S. House of Representatives, New Mexico 1st Congressional District
    Obama Campaign Position: Native American Vote Director, New Mexico, Obama for America in 2012

    Attorney and tribal administrator Deb Haaland is running against seven Democrats and two Republicans who have declared so far. All three of New Mexico’s seats in the House are up for election in 2018.

  • UW Smile Study May Help Us Navigate Through Social Situations

    We hear from a UW-Madison professor about a new smile study that may help us decipher what a person’s smile really means.

  • Confederate Memorials Removed From Madison Cemetery

    Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has ordered removal of a plaque and stone honoring Confederate soldiers that are located in a Madison cemetery. We talk with a historian about history, memory, and commemoration.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Producer
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Elena Schneider Guest
  • Paula Niedenthal Guest
  • James Grossman Guest

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