September 22, 2017

The Hill reports:

Moderate Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition are endorsing a slate of candidates Thursday in Republican-leaning districts, as they look to put their mark on the party’s 2018 midterm push.

The group has been working hand-in-glove with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) on recruiting candidates, a departure from previous years when moderates found themselves kicked to the curb by the House Democratic campaign arm.

As Democrats look at an expanded battlefield that includes 24 GOP-held House districts won by Hillary Clinton in November, Blue Dogs believe their expanded seat at the Democratic campaigning table will help to broaden the party’s appeal to include more moderate voters.

The Blue Dogs’ first wave of endorsements includes eight candidates, all but one of them in districts President Trump won in 2016. The group is expected to announce dozens more endorsements throughout the upcoming cycle.

“These candidates are outstanding candidates … their opponents are flawed or have extreme vulnerabilities because of extremist stances we don’t think match up with that particular district,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a Blue Dog member who has helped to spearhead candidate recruitment.

“I’ll stack my candidates up against any of the Republicans in these districts.”

Former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) is included in the first round of endorsements. Ashford, a former Blue Dog who lost his seat in 2016, wants a rematch against Rep. Don Bacon (R) after losing to him by just 1 percentage point.

Only one candidate, former House Intelligence Committee staffer turned federal prosecutor Jay Hulings, is from a district that Clinton won in November. Hulings is looking to unseat Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) in the Texas border district Clinton won by almost 4 points.

The remaining six candidates on the first slate are all running uphill battles in Republican-leaning districts, some in areas Trump won by a double-digit margin.

The list includes Anthony Brindisi (D), a New York State assemblyman looking to run against Rep. Claudia Tenney (R); Paul Davis, the former Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Kansas hoping to win an open seat; and Gretchen Driskell, a former Michigan state House member running for a rematch against Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).

The Blue Dogs are also endorsing Roger Dean Huffstetler (D-Va.), a Marine Corps veteran running against Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.); Brendan Kelly (D-Ill.), a state’s attorney and Navy veteran who wants to defeat Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.); and Dan McCready (D-N.C.), a Marine Corps veteran running to take on Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.).

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is working with Schrader on Blue Dog recruitment, said she’s “delighted” by the relationship with the DCCC this cycle. Sinema and others said this is the relations between the two groups haven’t been this good since 2006, when DCCC head Rahm Emanuel made a concerted effort to recruit conservative Democrats in swing districts as part of an effort that eventually won the party a House majority.

Blue Dogs meet with the DCCC weekly to talk about recruitment and strategy, members and their staff have been interviewing prospective candidates over the past few months, and former Blue Dog staffers offered their support and effort to Blue Dog candidates.

Blue Dogs also expect to have more resources than normal to support their candidates — one aide told The Hill that they are seeing a “surge” in donations to their political action committee.

The initial endorsements suggests the crossover appeal approach the Blue Dogs are taking to candidate recruitment for Republican-leaning or swing districts.

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