The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rolled out the first 35 districts of its "Red to Blue" program Monday, highlighting the GOP-held seats the party believes it can flip and open seats it hopes to keep in the Democratic column in the 2014 midterms.
Needing to net 17 seats to win back the House majority, the announcement makes clear where the party believes its most important fights will take place.
"This is our initial roll out," DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said Monday morning on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown." "There will be more, and we will have a very competitive battlefield as we go deeper into the cycle."
Sixteen candidates who achieved "aggressive fundraising, organization and infrastructure goals," according to the DCCC, were listed by name as top recruits in targeted districts. Among the candidates included were:
Former Capitol Hill aide Amanda Renteria, a Democrat challenging Rep. David Valadao in California's competitive 21st District, located in the Central Valley
Former judge Ann Callis, who is seeking to oust freshman GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois' 13th District. Callis faces a March 18 primary with physics professor George Gollin
Former New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia, looking to take on Republican Rep. Michael Grimm in New York's 11th District. Grimm, who came under fire recently after he threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony after the State of the Union, represents a district President Barack Obama carried in 2012
Former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff, a Democrat seeking to oust GOP Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th District. Obama carried the 6th District by a 5-point margin in 2012
Attorney Gwen Graham, who is challenging Republican Rep. Steve Southerland II in Florida's 2nd District. Graham is the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla.
The DCCC singled out 12 other candidates for its "Emerging Races" program who are "making themselves competitive by running smart campaigns which are becoming increasingly competitive." Among the candidates listed are venture capitalist Sean Eldridge in New York's 19th District, and attorney Bill Hughes Jr., running in New Jersey's 2nd District. Both are challenging incumbents.
Three races with multiple Democratic candidates were listed as Red to Blue districts, including California's 31st District, Maine's 2nd District and Iowa's 1st District. Only the California district is a pickup opportunity. Four districts dubbed "Emerging Districts" were Michigan's 11th District, North Carolina's 2nd District, and Pennsylvania's 6th and 8th districts.
On "Daily Rundown," Israel said the government shutdown in October — which for a few weeks altered the perception of whether Democrats could conceivably gain control of the House in 2014 — proves that having candidates in place in competitively drawn districts will be key to Democrats' strategy in November.
"If three weeks can make a difference in the environment, who knows what the next eight months will bring," Israel said.
The other Red to Blue candidates included in the DCCC's initial list were:
former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays in Arkansas' open 2nd District
former State Sen. Staci Appel in Iowa's open 3rd District
retired Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon in Michigan's 1st District
former state Rep. Pam Byrnes in Michigan's 7th District
former Capitol Hill aide John Lewis running for Montana's At-Large District
attorney Roxanne Lara running in New Mexico's 2nd District
Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard running in New Jersey's open 3rd District
Democratic National Committeewoman Erin Bilbray running in Nevada's 3rd District
prosecutor Kathleen Rice running in New York's 4th District
Tomkins County Legislator Martha Robertson running in New York's 23rd District
Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust running in Virginia's 10th District
All of the candidates and districts included can be found here.