The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Thursday its first round of 2016 candidates in the "Red to Blue" program, which highlights strong Democratic candidates running in open seats and districts held by Republicans that the DCCC hopes to flip.
“Not only have these individuals proven themselves ready to win by building smart campaigns and through strong fundraising, they have also proven themselves ready to fight on behalf of all the people in their districts, keep them safe and ensure the economy works for everyone," DCCC Chairman Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement Thursday.
Candidates in the program receive "financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support," and their inclusion in the program helps expose them to supporters who can "help expand the fundraising base for these campaigns," according to the the DCCC.
Democrats need a net gain of 30 seats to regain control of the House, and the DCCC believes the 31 districts and candidates included in its "Red to Blue" or its "Emerging Races" program represent some of the party's best shots at winning control of the lower chamber. Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos and Washington Rep. Denny Heck will co-chair the program.
Among the Democratic candidates who made the cut are:
- California's 24th District: Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal is running in an open-seat race in the district currently held by Democrat Lois Capps, who is retiring at the end of this Congress. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates the seat Safe Democrat.
- Colorado's 6th District: State Sen. Morgan Carroll is taking on Colorado Republican Mike Coffman in the Leans Republican district.
- Florida's 10th District: In her second bid for Congress, former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings is running in the seat currently held by GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, which is now rated Safe Democrat thanks to redistricting.
- Florida's 18th District: Businessman Randall Perkins is running for the 18th District, currently held by Democrat Patrick Murphy, who's running for Senate. The seat is a Tossup.
- Florida's 26th District: Former Miami-Dade County Democratic Chair Annette Taddeo is challenging GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo in this Tossup district.
- Iowa's 1st District: Second-time candidate Monica Vernon is challenging freshman Iowa Republican Rod Blum, one of the most vulnerable members of the House, in a Tilts Democrat seat.
- Illinois' 10th District: Former Rep. Brad Schneider is challenging GOP Rep. Robert J. Dold for his old seat, a Tossup race.
- Maine's 2nd District: 2014 Democratic nominee Emily Cain is running a rematch race against freshman Republican Bruce Poliquin, also a Tossup contest.
- Michigan's 1st District: Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson is running in this open seat, soon to be vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Dan Benishek. The seat is rated Leans Republican.
- Michigan's 7th District: State Rep. Gretchen Driskell is challenging Republican Tim Walberg in a Tilts Republican district.
- Minnesota's 2nd District: Health care executive Angie Craig is running for the seat being vacated by GOP Rep. John Kline, currently a Tossup.
- New Jersey's 5th District: Former Bill Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer is running against Republican Scott Garrett in this Favored Republican district.
- Nevada's 3th District: Synagogue leader Jacky Rosen is running in the open seat, currently held by GOP Rep. Joe Heck, who's running for the Senate. It's a Tossup.
- Texas' 23 District: Former Representative Pete Gallego is running for his old seat, challenging first-term Republican Will Hurd in a Tossup.
- Utah's 4th District: Doug Owens, the 2014 Democratic candidate, is running a rematch race against first-term Republican Mia Love in a Safe Republican district.
- Virginia's 10th District: Businesswoman LuAnn Bennett is taking on first-term Republican Barbara Comstock in this northern Virginia Leans Republican district.
The DCCC identified five House seats as "Red to Blue" districts — seats the party is targeting where there are multiple Democrats who have qualified for "Red to Blue." These include Florida's 13th District, Nevada's 4th District, New York's 1st District, New York's 24th District and Pennsylvania's 8th District.
The DCCC also identified eight candidates in its "Emerging Races" program and two districts in its "Emerging Districts" program, where, according to the DCCC, "campaigns are on track and working hard to put seats in play." The Democratic candidates include:
- Arizona's 1st District: Tom O’Halleran
- California's 10th District: Michael Eggman
- Michigan's 8th District: Melissa Gilbert
- Montana's At-Large District: Denise Juneau
- New Hampshire's 1st District: Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
- New York's 23 District: John Plumb
- Pennsylvania's 7th District: Bill Golderer
- West Virginia's 2nd District: Cory Simpson
Iowa's 3rd District, currently held by first-term Republican Rep. David Young, and New York's 19th District, currently held by retiring GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, were named "Emerging Districts."