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« Is FL Crucial To Romney? | Blog Home Page | McCain Wins Florida »

DCCC Launches Red-To-Blue

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen today tapped three trusted lieutenants to head up a pivotal program that helped the party pick up dozens of Republican-held seats last year. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alabama Rep. Artur Davis and Iowa freshman Bruce Braley will co-chair the Red-to-Blue program, Van Hollen announced today.

The program, which targets promising recruits running against GOP incumbents, rewards prospects for proving fundraising and campaigning abilities by providing financing and assistance. It is also a leading indicator for which Republican members the committee views as most vulnerable.

Van Hollen and Wasserman Schultz co-chaired the successful program in 2006, helping raise more than $22.6 million for 56 candidates, according to the DCCC. In 2004, Red-to-Blue raised $7.5 million for 27 candidates. In all, 42 new Democrats were elected to Congress in 2006, including 24 who defeated GOP incumbents and eight who won an open seat that had been vacated by a Republican.

The preliminary list of targeted candidates includes Democratic challengers running for eight GOP-held open seats and three special elections. Five of the eight candidates running for open seats are candidates who ran in 2006 and lost by fewer than 3 points. Second-timers include Dan Maffei, who lost to Rep. Jim Walsh in New York's 25th District, Mary Jo Kilroy, who narrowly lost Ohio's 15th District to Deborah Pryce, Linda Stender, in New Jersey's 7th District, Gary Trauner in Wyoming and Charlie Brown, who missed beating John Doolittle in California's 4th District. First-time challengers John Adler, in New Jersey's 3rd District, Ohio 16's John Boccieri and Debbie Halvorson in Illinois' 11th District are all state senators running in open seats.

Also listed are three seats with special elections that will take place this year, including seats being vacated by Republican Reps. Denny Hastert and Richard Baker and a seat left open after the death of Democratic Rep. Julia Carson. Carson's seat is the only Democratic seat listed, and her grandson, Indianapolis City-County Councilor Andre Carson will be the Democratic nominee in the March special election.

Notably absent from the first wave of Red-to-Blue candidates are those who face a competitive primary. One likely list member is Ann Kirkpatrick, a well-funded former state legislator who has received endorsements from EMILY's List and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and whose top Republican competition dropped out three weeks ago. Kirkpatrick is running in the moderate and sprawling 1st District in Arizona, which is being vacated by the scandal-plagued Republican Rick Renzi.

Two other districts likely to make the Red-to-Blue list at some point this year are Minnesota's 3rd District, where Republican Jim Ramstad is retiring, and New Mexico's 1st District, where Republican Heather Wilson is leaving her seat to run for the Senate. President Bush won 51% in both districts in 2004.

The Red-to-Blue list will grow as the year goes on, and a Democratic candidate's inclusion, or exclusion, will indicate the amount of faith the DCCC has in that candidate's chances.

-- Kyle Trygstad