The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced its first wave of "Red to Blue" U.S. House contenders for the midterm elections Monday, picking mostly women for a program meant to highlight the best recruits from around the country.

Ten of the 16 "Red to Blue " candidates the DCCC named are women. They include Iowa state Sen. Staci Appel, who is running for the seat of retiring Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) in a top Democratic pickup opportunity; and County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, a leading candidate for the seat of retiring Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), another of Democrats' best pickup chances.

The DCCC noted that it's the first time that women make up more than 60 percent of the list.

Democrats face a steep uphill climb in the battle for the House. They need to pick up 17 seats on a map where Republicans also have opportunities to play offense. The odds of a Democratic takeover have all but disappeared in recent months.

Candidates on the "Red to Blue" program get extra help from the DCCC, including financial and strategic support, the committee said.

The DCCC also added three "Red to Blue" districts, all open seat races with contested primaries. The most notable is California's 31st district, in which the DCCC-backed candidate is pitted against a candidate backed by Emily's List.

A dozen "emerging races" were also part of the DCCC's Monday announcement, including New York's 19th district, where Sean Eldridge (D), an investor married to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, is running against Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).

The committee also added four emerging districts, including North Carolna's 2nd, where former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken (D) is trying to unseat Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) in a long-shot campaign.

Here is the full slate of names and races the DCCC announced:

Red to Blue candidates

Patrick Henry Hays (Arkansas 2)
Amanda Renteria (California 21)
Andrew Romanoff (Colorado 6)
Gwen Graham (Florida 2)
Staci Appel (Iowa 3)
Ann Callis (Illinois 13)
Jerry Cannon (Michigan 1)
Pam Byrnes (Michigan 7)
John Lewis (Montana At-large)
Roxanne Lara (New Mexico 2)
Aimee Belgard (New Jersey 3)
Erin Bilbray (Nevada 3)
Kathleen Rice (New York 4)
Domenic Recchia (New York 11)
Martha Robertson (New York 23)
John Foust (Virginia 10)

Red to Blue districts

California 31
Iowa 1
Maine 2

Emerging races

Jackie McPherson (Arkansas 1)
James Lee Witt (Arkansas 4)
Michael Eggman (California 10)
Lee Rogers (California 25)
Jim Mowrer (Iowa 4)
Bill Hughes (New Jersey 2)
Sean Eldridge (New York 19)
Aaron Woolf (New York 21)
Jennifer Garrison (Ohio 6)
Michael Wager (Ohio 14)
Suzanne Patrick (Virginia 2)
Nick Casey (West Virginia 2)

Emerging districts

Michigan 11
North Carolina 2
Pennsylvania 6
Pennsylvania 8