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Chris Van Hollen on Democrats' Takeover Opportunities

Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, listed four Republican seats he thinks Democrats are primed to take over this fall, even as analysts predict a Republican wave.

At a briefing at the National Press Club, Van Hollen was pressed to list some takeover opportunities for Democrats. Here's what he said:

First of all, there are a number of congressional districts that, where you have high Democratic performances that voted overwhelmingly for President Obama, right, so you've got Delaware open seat, you've got Dan Seals in Illinois-10, you have the Louisiana seat, Cao, it's a Democratic seat--the incumbent was elected three weeks after the national election because of scheduling in Louisiana elections. You've got Hawaii, where in the special election we just saw, the Democratic candidates combined got 60 percent of the vote, but because of special election rules they had to compete against each other in the special, and they split the vote.

And then you've got a lot of other districts where we have strong candidates--in many cases they've outraised their Republican incumbents, they've got very strong arguments to be made, and the full list of those Red to Blue candidates can be found again on the DCCC website.

But let's be clear, I mean having picked up 55 seats over the last four years obvisously there's a narrower band of terr to compete on offense, but we are still doing it, and made a very calculated decision to do whatever we could on that front.

The DCCC's 27 Red to Blue candidates (the official name for top candidates targeting Republican districts) are listed here at the DCCC's website.

Here's a breakdown of the four opportunities Van Hollen mentioned:

  • Delaware - at-large: Moderate Republican congressman Mike Castle is retiring from the House to run for Vice President Joe Biden's former Senate seat, leaving his swing district vulnerable to a Democratic takeover after his nine terms in office. Former Democratic Lt. Gov John Carney is running for the seat and managed to raise a respectabe $1.3 million by June 30, retaining over $870,000 in his war chest. Republicans have yet to hold their primary; Carney will be challenged by either state-party-endorsed Michele Collins or conservative developer Glen Urquhart. Republicans will select their nominee Sept. 14.

  • Illinois - District 10: Republican Congressman Mark Kirk is vacating this seat to run for Senate, having fended off a threat from Democrat Dan Seals in 2008 after observers saw this seat as winnable for Democrats. Seals is running again, this time against Republican Robert Dold. The money has been about even in this race: on June 30, Seals led Dold by roughly $50,000.

  • Louisiana - District 2: Republican Joseph Cao defeated the scandal-plagued Democrat William Jefferson a month after the rest of the 2008 elections, as Jefferson faced ethics and criminal charges for, among other things, stashing $90,000 in bribe money in his freezer. Cao became the only Republican to vote for health care reform in the House (though he opposed it in the final vote), representing a solidly Democratic district that voted 76% for Al Gore and 75% for John Kerry. Four Democrats are vying to challenge him in a primary that will be held tomorrow.

  • Hawaii - District 1: When Democratic Congressman Neil Abercrombie left this seat to run for governor earlier this year, a multi-way special election ensued between two Democrats, former Congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, and Republican Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou. Case enjoyed the backing of the Democratic establishment in Washington, while Hanabusa was supported by Hawaii's two Democratic senators and organized labor. Although the two Democrats combined to receive 58% of the vote, Djou won with 39%. Case has said he will not run again, and it seems likely that Hanabusa (who finished ahead of Case with 31%) will defeat Djou in November.