House Democrats are continuing their offensive campaign while also defending their majority, adding two more seats to their 2020 target list and elevating one Democratic challenger.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is adding Ohio’s 10th and Arkansas’ 2nd districts to its list of targets, according to an announcement shared first with CQ Roll Call.
The committee is also adding Texas Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni to its Red to Blue program. The program means Kulkarni will have additional access to committee resources, and it’s a signal to donors that the committee considers him a formidable challenger.
“It’s never been more important to protect and expand this historic House majority and elect leaders who are committed to fighting for all Americans,” DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said in a statement.
Republicans need a net gain of 18 seats to flip the House, so Democrats are largely on defense in 2020. But they’re also looking to pick up seats, particularly in the diversifying Texas suburbs like the 22nd District, where Kulkarni is running.
Kulkarni, a former Foreign Service officer, won the March 3 Democratic primary for the open seat near Houston, but Republicans still have to pick their candidate. County Sheriff Troy Nehls and GOP megadonor Kathaleen Wall are competing in the primary runoff, which was recently rescheduled for July 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 22nd District was included on the DCCC’s initial 33-seat target list, in part because Kulkarni came within 5 points of defeating retiring GOP Rep. Pete Olson in 2018. The DCCC’s target list now includes 47 GOP seats with the two new additions.
Democrats have looked to defeat Ohio GOP Rep. Michael R. Turner in the past but have come up short. President Donald Trump carried the district, which includes Dayton and some surrounding suburbs, by 7 points in 2016. Turner won a ninth term in 2018 by 14 points.
In a press release, the DCCC noted that Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has won the district in the past, and the committee sees opportunity given Turner’s “very poor” fundraising. He has raised $880,000 so far in the cycle and had $558,000 on hand as of Feb. 26, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Neither of the two Democratic contenders has come close to those numbers. Desiree Tims, a former congressional staffer, was the top Democratic fundraiser, with $54,000 in her campaign account as of Feb. 26.
Democrats were also optimistic in 2018 about flipping Arkansas’ 2nd District, which includes Little Rock. They viewed then-state Rep. Clarke Tucker as a strong challenger to GOP Rep. French Hill. But Hill defeated Tucker by 6 points in a district that had backed Trump by 11 points two years earlier.
The DCCC has placed the district back on its target list because of the strength of its 2020 nominee, state Sen. Joyce Elliott, a former teacher and leader in the state House. The committee noted in the press release that Elliott has “high name recognition and reputation as a strong and focused leader.”
Elliott ran for the 2nd District seat in 2010 but lost by 20 points. Democrats labeled her a strong fundraiser, but Hill has a sizable financial advantage. As of Dec. 31, he had more than $1 million in the bank, while Elliott had $198,000. Reports showing how much was raised from January through March are due April 15.