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House campaign committees further gear up for 2014

On Thursday, officials at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced a new program to boost promising new recruits, just as their counterparts at the National Republican Congressional Committee debuted one to help them defeat Democrats who continue to win in red districts.

Both differ from other candidate fundraising programs in place by both committees -- “Red to Blue” for the DCCC, and “Young Guns” for the NRCC -- which have had mixed success in recent years.

But both highlight problems each committee has been trying to solve: candidate recruitment for Democrats and a handful of moderate Democrats for Republicans who they haven’t been able to knock off.

The DCCC’s “Jumpstart” program will provide early financial, communications and strategic support to top-tier recruits as Democrats  try to flip 17 seats to gain control back in the House.

According to a memo from DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward, candidates named to the program are in high-target races and are “running to put problem-solving ahead of ideology and get results for the middle class families in their districts. Voters are fed up with the partisan ideology and obstructionism of this Republican Congress, and these candidates will offer the antidote.”

Eight Democratic recruits are on the DCCC’s first wave of the program:

-- Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar is running against Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) in California’s 31st District -- the most Democratic district held by a Republican, but one where Aguilar failed to get on the ballot last time with the state’s top-two primary;

--Judge Ann Callis just stepped down from the bench to run against freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) in Illinois’ 13th District -- the only competitive seat in the Land of Lincoln Democrats didn’t flip in 2012.

--Democrats tried with an astronaut in 2012, but they’re turning to farmer and beekeeper Michael Eggman to take on Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) in California’s 10th District that went for Obama by four percentage points in 2012.

--Leon County School official Gwen Graham, daughter of former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), will take on sophomore Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL). Romney won the Tallahassee-based Florida’s 2nd District by six points.

--Wealthy hotel magnate Jim Graves is pursuing a rematch against controversial Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) in Minnesota’s 6th District. In 2012, Graves fell short by just over 4,200 votes.

--New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia is running against Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) in the Staten Island-based 11th District that Obama won by four points.

--Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is taking on Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) in Colorado’s 6th District. Obama won the district with 53 percent of the vote, but Coffman narrowly edged his Democratic opponent, 49 percent to 45 percent.

--Former Army Ranger Kevin Strouse is running against Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, a competitive suburban Philadelphia district.

For Republicans, their focus is on seven Democratic incumbents they haven’t been able to knock out of office -- despite presidential nominees winning their districts in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

The NRCC’s new “Red Zone” initiative will have a staff dedicated to targeting these districts, led by regional political director Annie Kelly. Targeted members include Reps. John Barrow (D-GA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Ron Barber (D-AZ), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Collin Peterson (D-MN).

“These members are out-of-touch with the districts they represent, and it’s time they’re held accountable,” said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek. “We came very close last cycle to defeating them, falling just a few yards short. We will continue to stay on offense in 2014 and make sure these districts are represented by members who will support the same playbook to strengthen the middle class and create jobs that their constituents do.”