House Democrats will formally start recruitment efforts for 2016 this week, kicking off with the cycle's first meeting of new committee leadership and a weekend trip to Illinois to find prospective candidates.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will name Rep. Denny Heck of Washington as recruitment chairman for 2016, according to information provided first to CQ Roll Call. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois will aid the DCCC's recruitment efforts as the national chairman for candidate services, and the committee's chairman, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, will take a leading role in seeking stellar candidates for 2016. House Democrats took a beating in 2014, leaving the DCCC with a formidable task this cycle: It must pick up a net of 30 seats to secure the majority. But the DCCC also has plenty of offensive opportunities, with 26 House Republicans occupying districts President Barack Obama won in 2012. It's why recruitment — finding and supporting the best candidates — will be key for the DCCC.
The DCCC's newly formed, 25-member recruitment committee includes Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Lois Frankel of Florida, Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts, Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana, Raul Ruiz of California and Terri A. Sewell of Alabama. Reps. Steve Israel of New York and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, both former DCCC chairmen, will also serve on the committee.
The recruitment committee will hold its first meeting Thursday morning. This weekend, Heck will travel to Illinois to meet with potential candidates in the 12th and 13th districts, currently held by Republican Reps. Mike Bost and Rodney Davis, respectively.
While the meeting marks the formal start of recruitment season, it is not the first time DCCC leadership has reached out to potential candidates this cycle. Luján made his first outreach on Nov. 17, the day he was selected to run the committee, per a DCCC official.
Republicans currently hold a historic 246-seat majority in the House; Democrats hold 188 seats. One seat is vacant, pending a special election in New York's 11th District, but Republicans are favored to win that race.
In addition to the 26 Republicans representing districts the president won, there are 23 districts where Obama took at least 48 percent of the vote. To compare, only five House Democrats occupy districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012.
“House Democrats begin 2016 on offense as Republicans in Congress are marred in scandal and stuck defending their agenda that sells out the middle class to stack the deck for the special interests," Luján said in a statement. "Democrats will recruit strong candidates who fit their districts, can build winning campaigns and can make the case to the American people that it’s time for a Congress that puts the middle class first. That starts now.”
Related: Kevin McCarthy, Ben Ray Luján Among Capitol Hill's Big Winners in 2014 Luján Pledges to Bring Farmer's Work Ethic to DCCC 10 Races to Watch in 2016: New York's 11th District DCCC With $12 Million Debt After Midterms The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.