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Democrats Expand Effort to Claim GOP-Held Seats

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will announce today the addition of 11 candidates to its “Red to Blue” program, nearly doubling the number of eligible contenders.

Party leaders are eager to demonstrate that they are not just playing defense this election year, and the Red to Blue program, which largely aims to flip Republican-held seats into the Democratic column, is a key part of that strategy. The DCCC has previously named 15 members of the program, bringing the total so far to 26.

“These candidates being named to our Red to Blue Program are running strong campaigns and demonstrating their commitment to being independent leaders who will make job creation back home their top priority,” DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said in a statement. “The Red to Blue Program will give these strong candidates the financial and structural edge they need to win in November.”

The new candidates are Denny Heck in Washington’s 3rd district, Chad Causey in Arkansas’ 1st district, Joyce Elliott in Arkansas’ 2nd district, Trent Van Haaften in Indiana’s 8th district, Mike Oliverio in West Virginia’s 1st district, Manan Trivedi in Pennsylvania’s 6th district, Tarryl Clark in Minnesota’s 6th district, Julie Lassa in Wisconsin’s 7th district, Gary McDowell in Michigan’s 1st district, Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii’s 1st district and Tommy Sowers in Missouri’s 8th district.

Seven of the 11 candidates are vying for open seats currently held by Democrats.

To qualify for the program, candidates must show an ability to surpass “demanding fundraising goals” and demonstrate skill in connecting with voters. In return, the candidates receive “financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support,” according to committee officials.

The additions to the program come as Democrats prepare to face one of the toughest election years in recent history, thanks in part to powerful anti-incumbency feelings among voters.

Democratic fundraiser Michael Fraioli said that despite the environment, it was important to stay on the offensive. “If you are a donor or a potential donor, you are looking for Democrats to do more than defend [the seats they have],” he said. “The list helps donors sort out the muddle of candidates out there.”

Fraioli predicted the list of Red to Blue candidates would be shorter than in recent years should the political environment remain static until November. “This is June; in August we could be having a completely different conversation,” he said.

Previously named candidates are Ami Bera in California’s 3rd district, Paula Brooks in Ohio’s 12th district, John Callahan in Pennsylvania’s 15th district, John Carney in Delaware’s at-large district, Suzan DelBene in Washington’s 8th district, Raj Goyle in Kansas’ 4th district, Roy Herron in Tennessee’s 8th district, Bryan Lentz in Pennsylvania’s 7th district, Rob Miller in South Carolina’s 2nd district, Steve Pougnet in California’s 45th district, Dan Seals in Illinois’ 10th district, Tom White in Nebraska’s 2nd district, Lori Edwards in Florida’s 12th district, Joe Garcia in Florida’s 25th district and Stephene Moore in Kansas’ 3rd district.

The DCCC raised $26 million for 63 Red to Blue candidates during the 2008 cycle, and 27 won their general elections.

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