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New Democrats’ PAC Adds 12 Challengers to Candidate Watch List

Moderate Democratic group is stepping into races earlier this cycle

Harley Rouda is one of two Democratic challengers to GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that the NewDemPAC is adding to its candidate watch list. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call File Photo).
Harley Rouda is one of two Democratic challengers to GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that the NewDemPAC is adding to its candidate watch list. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

The political arm of the moderate New Democrat Coalition is adding 12 House challengers to its list of candidates to watch in 2018. 

NewDemPAC’s recognition comes with a $1,000 contribution this quarter and guidance about messaging and strategy. The watch list is a way for the group to get involved in races earlier than it previously has. Last cycle, the PAC contributed about $1 million to federal candidates and it expects to give out at least that much this cycle. 

The PAC, which was founded in 2005, is adding multiple candidates in the same district to the list. Being included on the list is not yet an endorsement. NewDemPAC will make those next year. 

The current 115th Congress includes 61 New Democrats, led by Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes. California Rep. Scott Peters chairs the group’s PAC.

“Democrats represent every district that is deep blue, but there are a lot of these mixed districts that we just haven’t done that well in,” Peters said Friday. “So what we’re trying to do is supplement the work of the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and offer advice about winning these districts.”

The 12 new candidates to watch are:

  • Dave Min in California’s 45th District
  • Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda in California’s 48th District
  • Paul Davis in Kansas’ 2nd District
  • Elissa Slotkin in Michigan’s 8th District
  • Angie Craig in Minnesota’s 2nd District
  • Former Rep. Brad Ashford, who’s running for the 2nd District seat he lost in Nebraska last fall
  • Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey’s 11th District
  • Anthony Brindisi in New York’s 22nd District
  • Jana Lynne Sanchez in Texas’ 6th District
  • Jay Hulings in Texas’ 23rd District
  • Roger Dean Huffstetler in Virginia’s 5th District. 

Chrissy Houlahan, who’s running in Pennsylvania’s 6th District, was already on the PAC’s watch list. 

NewDemPAC reviewed the websites and press releases of candidates being vetted for the list. Candidates also had to participate in brief interviews. 

The group’s leadership is coordinating with the DCCC this cycle, which Peters said is much less “cookie-cutter” in its approach than it was in 2012 when he was first elected. 

NewDemPAC is also in close communication with the political arms of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Blue Dog Coalition. On Thursday, the PAC affiliated with the Blue Dogs endorsed five of the candidates that the New Democrats are adding to its watch list. 

“The majority depends on winning races with Blue Dogs and New Dems,” Peters said. “There’s not another Boston, another San Francisco. We’re talking about suburban areas, rural areas where we have a chance,” he added. Democrats need to gain a net of 24 seats in 2018 for a majority. 

The PAC finds itself on the opposite side of some powerful groups in crowded primaries. In California’s 45th District, for example, the abortion rights group EMILY’s List backed Katie Porter, who also has the endorsement of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“We’re not running against any Democrats. We’re just supporting people who we think can win the general election,” Peters said. 

The PAC is advising candidates how to handle questions about policy issues such as single-payer health insurance. “The districts like mine — what we talk about is pragmatism,” said Peters, who is not in favor of the current “Medicare for all” legislation in the House.

His San Diego-based 52nd District voted for Hillary Clinton by nearly 23 points last fall, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections, but former President Barack Obama’s margins there were narrower. 

“It’s never going to elect Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren,” Peters said of his district. “We want to make sure that early in these campaigns, these candidates know that’s where their prospects lie.”

Peters is a GOP target in 2018, but Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for his seat Solid Democratic

The California Democrat has made his own campaign team available to candidates on the PAC’s watch list for policy and political guidance. Those candidates can also tout their affiliation with the New Democrats, which Peters expects to help with their fundraising. 

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