The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee unveiled the first round of its “Red to Blue” program for the 2024 election cycle on Monday, highlighting the Democratic House candidates whom the committee thinks have the strongest chance of picking up GOP-held districts or defending competitive open seats. While most of the names will be no surprise to those who closely follow House races, since the list largely consists of top recruits who face little or no opposition for the Democratic nomination, a few names stand out.
Most notable is the DCCC’s decision to take sides in the May 21 primary for Oregon’s 5th District by backing state Rep. Janelle Bynum’s campaign to face freshman Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer. EMILY’s List, which supports pro-abortion-rights Democratic women, also endorsed Bynum on Monday over 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Oregon Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. (EMILY backed McLeod-Skinner in the 2022 general election.)
Until recently, McLeod-Skinner looked like she had a strong chance to secure the nomination for a rematch against Chavez-DeRemer in a central Oregon constituency that Democrats badly want to win back.
Last cycle, McLeod-SKinner successfully primaried centrist Rep. Kurt Schrader by arguing that he was too unreliable of a Democrat in a district that had favored Joe Biden 53-44 in 2020. While she went on to lose the general election 51-49, McLeod-Skinner’s narrow defeat came during what was overall a challenging year for Oregon Democrats. (Republican Christine Drazan carried the 5th 47-43 in the 2022 governor’s race, according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections.)
Despite her loss, primary voters seemed content to have McLeod-Skinner as their standard bearer again: An early June internal poll for her campaign showed her defeating Bynum by a wide 50-9 margin, and no one has released any polls since then showing a closer race.
However, McLeod-Skinner has attracted unfavorable news coverage over the last few months as former aides have alleged that she mistreated her staff during previous campaigns. The most serious accusations came in January, when Willamette Week reported that three former staffers said that McLeod-Skinner’s driver in her 2022 bid feared for his safety after two physical altercations with the candidate. McLeod-Skinner has denied the allegations.
Bynum, who beat Chavez-DeRemer in 2016 and 2018 contests for the state House, said in June that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries had encouraged her to run. Axios wrote the next month that party leaders viewed her as “a more business-friendly candidate better positioned to win swing voters” than McLeod-Skinner is. Bynum, who would be Oregon’s first Black member of Congress, already had the backing of Gov. Tina Kotek and neighboring Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Andrea Salinas, but major national Democratic groups had held off on taking sides until now.
The field also includes Peterson, but she struggled to raise money through September. (Reports covering the final three months of 2023 are due by Wednesday evening.) And the Democratic side may not have fully taken shape yet, as tech executive Matthew Davie set up a campaign committee earlier this month but has yet to announce he’s in.
Meanwhile, in California’s Central Valley, the DCCC is supporting former Assemblyman Rudy Salas’ rematch effort against Rep. David Valadao, the Republican who beat him 52-48 in 2022. The March 5 top-two primary ballot includes another Democrat, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, but the committee last week began running TV ads with Salas.
Politico explained that the DCCC was taking action to avoid getting locked out of the general election altogether. California requires that all candidates run together on the same primary ballot, with the two contenders with the most votes―regardless of party―moving on to the Nov. 5 general election. A Republican perennial candidate, former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, is running again, so there’s a chance he and Valadao could advance and leave Democrats without a candidate in this 55-42 Biden constituency.
The other 15 races where the DCCC added a candidate to Red to Blue are:
- AZ-06: 2022 nominee Kirsten Engel
- CA-13: 2022 nominee Adam Gray
- CA-27: former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides
- CA-41: 2022 nominee Will Rollins
- CO-03: 2022 nominee Adam Frisch
- IA-01: 2022 nominee Christina Bohannan
- IA-03: former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Lanon Baccam
- MI-07: former state Sen. Curtis Hertel
- MT-01: 2022 nominee Monica Tranel
- NE-02: 2022 nominee Tony Vargas
- NY-03: former Rep. Tom Suozzi
- NY-17: former Rep. Mondaire Jones
- NY-19: 2022 nominee Josh Riley
- TX-15: 2022 nominee Michelle Vallejo
- VA-02: Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal
Suozzi will appear on the ballot sooner than anyone else, as he’s competing against Republican Mazi Pilip in the Feb. 13 special election to succeed Republican George Santos. Like New York’s 3rd, all of these seats are (or were) held by a Republican. The only exception is Michigan’s 7th, which Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin is giving up to run for the Senate.
Candidate filing has already closed in California and Texas, and none of the DCCC’s endorsed candidates in those states face any serious intraparty opposition other than Salas, as noted above.
The committee is also acting confident its picks won’t have much to worry about in primaries for the remaining 10 seats, either. So far, it’s been right: In New York’s 19th, for instance, state Sen. Michelle Hinchey hasn’t shown any obvious interest in running against Republican Rep. Mark Molinaro since she publicly discussed the idea all the way back in April.
Most of the 17 inaugural Red to Blue inductees are also campaigning against Republican incumbents, apart from Suozzi, Hertel, and Frisch. Frisch is continuing his campaign for Colorado’s 3rd District even though far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert unexpectedly announced she would run for the more conservative 4th District, on the other side of the state. Donald Trump still carried the 3rd by a tough 53-45 margin, but the DCCC is signaling that it still believes that Frisch, who came shockingly close to beating Boebert in 2022, can keep it in play.
The NRCC, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to have deployed a comparable list yet this cycle. In the past, participants in the GOP’s program have been known as the “Young Guns,” an epithet adopted by former Reps. Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy, who also wrote a book by the same name. With the departure of all three onetime leaders from Congress, however, it’s possible the committee will now seek to rebrand its program.