BALTIMORE — The head recruiter for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has four open seats he needs candidates for. But in an illustration of the challenges Democrats face in clawing their way back to the majority, all four vacancies are in heavily Republican districts.
At a panel here Thursday during the minority party’s issues retreat, Rep. Denny Heck of Washington, who chairs the DCCC’s Recruitment committee, said he would remain realistic, but optimistic, about the potential for Democrats to fill the positions long held by the opposing party. The four seats are the ones held by Republicans picked to serve in the administration of President Donald Trump.
“The starting point is that we have to all acknowledge that those seats are all held by Republicans and they’ve been held by Republicans for quite some time,” Heck said.
Rep. Mike Pompeo created the first postelection House vacancy in Kansas’ 4th District after he was tapped — and ultimately confirmed — as CIA director.
Trump also picked Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Service. His district in Georgia is reliably Republican. But while Price has romped to victory in previous elections, Trump only carried the 6th District by less than 2 points last fall, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.
Montana’s at-large congressional seat, held by Interior Secretary-designee Ryan Zinke tends to go Republican, even as other statewide positions such as senator and governor have seen Democratic success.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s seat in South Carolina’s 5th District also leans Republican, although Mulvaney was a late Democratic target last year. If confirmed, Mulvaney would serve as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
On the ground, Heck said there were Democratic candidates who could be considered but he stopped short of saying these seats were winnable for the party.
“We’re going to be very realistic about these four congressional districts while nonetheless talking and reaching out with people that indicated interest and seeing if in fact they demonstrate the key principles or characteristics of viability,” Heck said.