Blue Dogs recruit four vulnerable Dems

The Blue Dog Coalition is adding four new members to its ranks, all of whom are facing competitive reelection bids this year. 

The conservative Democratic group is bringing on Democratic Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), Cheri Bustos (Ill.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.).

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A spokesman for Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), who is the co-chairman of communications for the group, said Wednesday the recruitment came about after the government shutdown last October. 

“Their deep commitment to fiscal responsibility and reaching across the aisle when crafting public policy is just the sort of leadership we need to solve the problems facing our country,” Schrader said in a release. 

The coalition, which at one point numbered 54 members, was cut down to 15 in 2013 after a string of retirements and failed reelections. 

All of the new members — with the exception of Rahall who has served in the chamber since 1977 — are relatively new to the House. Both Bustos and Sinema are freshmen.

Barber is serving his first full term in office after being sworn in mid-way through 2012 to replace former coalition member Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). 

All the new members won their last elections with less than 55 percent of the vote. The National Republican Congressional Committee has singled out both Barber and Rahall, who represent red-leaning districts that went to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. 

Democrats have also looked to protect the swing districts held by the new Blue Dog members. All but Rahall have been named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline Program, which protects vulnerable incumbents. 

The Blue Dog coalition has been bleeding members since after the 2008 elections, when their numbers peaked. 

Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas) was the only freshman member to immediately join the group after last year’s election. Barber and Sinema had joined another centrist Democratic group, the New Democrat Coalition, after the election. Gallego is a member as well. 

The recruitment comes as a number of others members are leaving. 

Blue Dog Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), who won two of the closest elections in 2012, have already announced they will retire in 2014. Another coalition member, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) has announced a run for governor in the state. 

—Updated at 4:35 p.m.