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DCCC Expands Its ‘Red to Blue’ Program

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is scheduled today to unveil the next slate of candidates it has chosen to participate in “Red to Blue,” a fundraising and infrastructure program that focuses on flipping Republican-held House seats.

While the first batch of candidates — unveiled in January — are running in 11 Republican-held open districts, this second group includes 13 Democrats who are set to challenge GOP incumbents this fall. The DCCC’s national network of donors is encouraged to contribute to Red to Blue candidates, as are sitting House Democrats, with the committee providing strategic advice and infrastructure reinforcements directly to the participants’ campaigns.

“These candidates have come out of the gate strong, and the Red to Blue program will give them the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November,” DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said.

Julie Shutley, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, did not appear all that concerned, referring to the DCCC’s latest group of Red to Blue candidates as “fatally flawed and doomed to failure no matter how much money they spend on their campaigns. In fact, four of the 13 Democrats selected for the second round of Red to Blue lost their House bids in 2006, arguably the best environment for the Democratic Party in a generation.”

The 13 new Red to Blue participants include former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, challenging Rep. Sam Graves (R) in Missouri’s 6th district; former Senate aide Anne Barth, challenging Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in West Virginia’s 2nd; 2006 nominee Darcy Burner, seeking a rematch with Rep. Dave Reichert (R) in Washington’s 8th; and Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas, challenging Rep. Jon Porter (R) in Nevada’s 3rd.

Additional participants include Ohio state Rep. Steve Driehaus, challenging Rep. Steve Chabot (R) in Ohio’s 1st; Greenwich Democratic Party Chairman Jim Himes, challenging Rep. Christopher Shays (R) in Connecticut’s 4th; 2006 nominee Christine Jennings, challenging Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) in Florida’s 13th; 2006 nominee Larry Kissell, challenging Rep. Robin Hayes (R) in North Carolina’s 8th; and former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, who is competing for the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge Rep. Tom Feeney (R) in Florida’s 24th.

Also added to Red to Blue were 2006 nominee Eric Massa, challenging Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) in New York’s 29th; former Michigan Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters, challenging Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R) in Michigan’s 9th; state Sen. Mark Schauer, challenging Rep. Tim Walberg (R) in Michigan’s 7th; and marketing executive Dan Seals, challenging Rep. Mark Kirk (R) in Illinois’ 10th.

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.

Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Artur Davis (Ala.) and Bruce Braley (Iowa) are co-chairmen of the Red to Blue program this cycle.

The DCCC continues to maintain a significant financial edge over the NRCC, and this advantage could come in handy as House Democrats seek to expand their 17-seat majority.

As of Jan. 31, the DCCC possessed a hefty $30 million lead over the NRCC in cash on hand, having outraised the Republican committee by $18 million since the beginning of the election cycle.

But Republicans are clearly banking on money not being everything.

“With the weight of the Democrat Congress’ approval ratings and the Democrat majority’s lack of accomplishments on their backs, these challengers are going to be facing a steep uphill climb,” Shutley said. “Our Republican incumbents are battle tested.”

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