DCCC’s Latest Shot

Committee to Unveil Program To Capture GOP-Held Seats

Posted January 16, 2008 at 6:24pm

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today is set to unveil details of its “Red to Blue” fundraising and infrastructure program as it looks to expand the House playing field and grow its majority by winning typically safe Republican seats.

With the exception of Indiana’s 7th district, where André Carson (D) is running in a special election to succeed his grandmother, the late Rep. Julia Carson (D), the DCCC is showing the confidence its solid fundraising advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee has brought by including several solidly conservative,

GOP-held seats in its first round of Red to Blue targets.

Among the candidates included are police administrator Charlie Brown (D) in California’s 4th district, who was selected even after scandal-tarred Rep. John Doolittle (R) announced earlier this month that he was retiring; Internet entrepreneur Gary Trauner (D), who was chosen in Wyoming’s at-large district even after politically weak Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) announced she was retiring; and the as-yet undetermined winner of the Democratic primary in the special election in Louisiana’s 6th district to replace outgoing Rep. Richard Baker (R).

“These candidates for change have performed very well in the early stages of their campaigns, and the Red to Blue program will give them the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive this year,” DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Wednesday.

The NRCC dismissed the DCCC’s Red to Blue picks as retreads who failed to win in 2006, arguably the best cycle for Democrats in a generation. Indeed, Brown and Trauner, as well as two additional Red to Blue candidates, were the Democratic nominees in their respective districts last cycle, but failed to break through.

“This list is proof positive of Chris Van Hollen’s struggles to find credible challengers to run in ruby-red districts,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said.

The DCCC credits Red to Blue with raising $22.6 million for 56 campaigns during the 2006 cycle, an increase of $15.1 million over what was spent in the 2004 cycle, when 27 Democratic House candidates benefitted from Red to Blue at an average clip of $250,000 per campaign.

The infrastructure and strategy component of the program is lauded for stabilizing the campaigns of several 2006 House Democratic candidates, ensuring they could capitalize at the ballot box on a political environment that favored the Democrats, and helped the party take control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years.

The DCCC selected its first round of Red to Blue participants based on the candidate surpassing the fundraising goals set by the committee and on the candidate’s performance and ability to make inroads in his or her district. The DCCC’s national network of donors will be strongly encouraged to contribute to these candidates, as will sitting House Democrats, with the committee providing strategic advice and infrastructure reinforcements directly to the participants’ campaigns.

Other than the open Indiana seat, the first round of the program — unveiled earlier in the election cycle than ever before — is purposely focusing on Republican-held open seats. Round two, set to be unveiled in February, will focus on seats held by GOP incumbents who are seeking re-election.

In addition to Brown, Carson, Trauner and the eventual Democratic nominee in Louisiana’s 6th district, the first group of candidates includes state Sen. John Adler in New Jersey’s 3rd district; Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio’s 15th district; state Sen. John Boccieri in Ohio’s 16th district; state Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson in Illinois’ 11th district; and state Assemblywoman Linda Stender in New Jersey’s 7th district.

Also included in the program’s first round is another candidate who remains unknown at this time: the winner of the Democratic primary in the Feb. 5 special election in Illinois’ 14th district.

Van Hollen suggested that the first crop of Red to Blue candidates were selected because they have demonstrated an ability to run as “change” candidates — a theme the Democrats will return to repeatedly as they try to increase their House and Senate majorities in November.

“The candidates in our first round of the Red to Blue Program are strong examples of Democrats who represent a commitment to new priorities for the families in their districts,” he said.

While the DCCC unquestionably has a fundraising advantage over the NRCC, with a $28.4 million lead in cash on hand as of Nov. 30, Republicans say the political atmosphere this cycle is not looking good for Democrats. They point to the DCCC’s failure to win a December special election in Ohio’s Republican-leaning 5th district — a race in which it invested heavily — as well as the decision to include the younger Carson in Red to Blue.

Carson is running in a district that delivered 58 percent of its 2004 presidential vote to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

“If this is a sign of things to come, Chris Van Hollen and the DCCC will be feeling blue and seeing red,” Spain said. “As the Ohio special election proved, investing resources and manpower in fatally flawed candidates running in conservative districts will not be enough in a presidential election year.”