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House Democrats name top challengers in fight for majority

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By Ally Mutnick, Politico

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has tapped a dozen challengers for the initial roster of its “Red to Blue” program for top-tier candidates, offering an early look at how it views the House battlefield with redistricting nearly complete.

Republicans only need to flip five seats to undo Democrats’ razor-thin majority and capture the House in November — but Democrats can stretch that number by flipping GOP-held seats the other way, and capitalizing on those opportunities will be a key part of any path to keeping the House during President Joe Biden’s first midterm.

The majority of the program’s roster is running for seats that became much more favorable for Democrats under new redistricting maps. Biden carried 10 of the 12 target districts in 2020.

“I think it’s going to be mostly about defense,” DCCC Executive Director Tim Persico said, speaking about Democrats’ midterm strategy. “But,” he added, “it’s important to play offense.”

And he remained upbeat about Democrats post-redistricting prospects: “We feel really good about a battlefield we can win on, which is our stated goal from day one,” he said. “Do we have a battlefield that we can maintain our majority on? I think we do.”

The Democrat’s “Red to Blue” list includes several candidates running in seats that Democrats lost in 2020: state Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who is challenging Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.); Jay Chen, a Navy veteran running against Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.); state Rep. Christina Bohannan, who is challenging Rep. Mariannette Miller Meeks (R-Iowa); state Sen. Liz Mathis, who is running against Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa); Gabe Vasquez, a former Las Cruces city council member challenging Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.); and former Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), who has launched a rematch against Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.).

Three others are running in seats that were transformed from Trump-won districts into Biden seats in redistricting. In Illinois, Nikki Budzinski is running for a Springfield-based district that Biden carried by 11 points. In New York, Jackie Gordon is running for a newly created Long Island seat that the president won by a similar margin. And in Michigan, Hillary Scholten is back for a rematch with GOP Rep. Peter Meijer, whose seat was redrawn into one that Biden carried by 9 points.

The DCCC has also placed two Ohio candidates in the program: state Rep. Emilia Sykes, who is running for an open Akron seat, and Cincinnati Councilmember Greg Landsman, who is challenging GOP Rep. Steve Chabot.

Three others are running in seats that were transformed from Trump-won districts into Biden seats in redistricting. In Illinois, Nikki Budzinski is running for a Springfield-based district that Biden carried by 11 points. In New York, Jackie Gordon is running for a newly created Long Island seat that the president won by a similar margin. And in Michigan, Hillary Scholten is back for a rematch with GOP Rep. Peter Meijer, whose seat was redrawn into one that Biden carried by 9 points.

The DCCC has also placed two Ohio candidates in the program: state Rep. Emilia Sykes, who is running for an open Akron seat, and Cincinnati Councilmember Greg Landsman, who is challenging GOP Rep. Steve Chabot.

Another addition, state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, is running to replace retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) in a deep blue district that Biden carried by 14 points.

Some of these could be easy pickups even in a tough environment: Salas, for example, is vying for a seat in California’s Central Valley that Biden won by 13 points.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the DCCC chair, plans to announce the new “Red to Blue” members and other additions to his committee’s offensive and defensive target lists to members on Thursday.

“Our candidates and members are veterans, teachers, doctors, and public servants who know the struggles of working families, are committed to service, and are building the kinds of campaigns that will send Democrats back to Washington with the majority needed to deliver for the people,” Maloney said in a statement.

Redistricting has opened up a spate of new opportunities in 2022, creating new open, safe Democratic seats and leaving some GOP incumbents in deep blue territory. But it has also taken some off the board.

The DCCC announced that it was scrapping six seats from its offensive target list — places in Indiana, New York, Texas and Utah that became more GOP-leaning in redistricting. In Texas, the committee is no longer targeting seats held by Republican Reps. Beth Van Duyne and Tony Gonzales, even though Trump carried Gonzales’ seat by just 7 points.

Meanwhile, Reps. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) have joined the committee’s Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents. And the campaign arm also named eight new districts to list of seats that could be competitive this cycle, including two open ones in North Carolina and Rep. Bryan Steil’s (R-Wis.) seat, which Trump only narrowly carried after redistricting.

“We are not going to lose sight of any district that needs a little attention,” Persico said.

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