House Democrats aim to give 2014 recruits a head start


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

In hopes of taking control of the House, Democrats are helping some of their best candidates get an early start.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched a new "Jumpstart" program, which will provide financial and other support to candidates in targeted GOP-held seats.

The first eight candidates are Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, challenging Rep. Gary Miller in California's 31st district; Judge Ann Callis, challenging Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois's 13th district; Michael Eggman, challenging Rep. Jeff Denham in California's 10th district; Gwen Graham (daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham) challenging Rep. Steve Southerland in Florida's 2nd; Jim Graves challenging Michele Bachmann in Minnesota's 6th; City Councilman Domenic Recchia challenging Rep. Michael Grimm in New York's 11th; former Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff challenging Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th, and Kevin Strouse taking on Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania's 8th district.

The list reinforces the difficulty for Democrats of winning the 17 seats they need to take control of the House. Only one of these races is deemed a toss-up by the Cook Political Report -- California's 31st, where Miller had an easy race last fall after Aguilar was shut out by the jungle primary system. The rest are leaning or likely Republican. Half are in districts won by Mitt Romney last fall.

Democrats argue that strong recruiting will give them an edge.

"Since the beginning of the cycle, we have said that we will win in 2014 because of the success of our recruitment efforts in 2013," DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward wrote in a memo to donors and supporters announcing the program.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, announced its own list Thursday -- the "Red Zone," aimed at taking down seven vulnerable Democratic lawmakers. Georgia's John Barrow, Arizona's Ron Barber and Ann Kirkpatrick, Utah's Jim Matheson, North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre, Minnesota’s Collin Peterson, and West Virginia’s Nick Rahall are the targets.

"These have been some of the strongest defensive players in recent history but our offense is better than ever and driving toward their red zone," the announcement reads.

Two of the seven are listed as "toss-ups" by Cook; all seven are in districts won by Romney.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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