National Democrats on Wednesday identified Paul Hirschbiel as one of their top challenger candidates of the cycle, giving a boost to the Virginia Beach businessman’s bid to oust freshman Rep. Scott Rigell (R).

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Hirschbiel as one of 18 candidates who have qualified so far for the “Red to Blue” program, meaning that they have “surpass[ed] demanding fundraising, organization and infrastructure goals.” Another 18 districts without clear Democratic frontrunners were also included in the program.

Democrats have been eager to have the wealthy Hirschbiel face Rigell since Hirschbiel stared exploring a bid in July. The founding partner at the New York-based private equity firm Cornerstone Equity Investors, Hirschbiel now owns the Virginia Beach-based consulting firm Eden Capital.

Looking to undermine Hirschbiel’s support among his fellow Democrats, Republicans have pointed out that Hirschbiel has made a handful of donations to Republicans in the past, including George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 1999 and Mitt Romney’s in 2007. Hirschbiel has responded by noting that the vast majority of his donations have gone to Democrats but that he has sometimes needed to work with Republicans on individual issues.

Virginia hosted four competitive congressional races in 2010, with three seats flipping from Democrats to Republicans. But given the current circumstances, the state might only see one close contest in 2012, if any. The Republican-authored congressional redistricting plan that passed the state House last week and is scheduled for a state Senate vote Friday would fortify incumbents of both parties.

The new map would make Rigell’s Virginia Beach-based district — which President Obama won narrowly in 2008 — slightly more Republican.