Democracy for America, the progressive group launched by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), is endorsing two long-shot Democratic candidates in the South Dakota and Maine Senate races.

DFA is backing Democrats Rick Weiland in South Dakota and Shenna Bellows in Maine. Both are their party’s likely nominee, and both have mounted underdog bids for seats that favor Republicans.

In South Dakota, Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson’s retirement has opened up a seat in a state that leans Republican, and Weiland jumped in the race only after two higher-profile Democrats opted out. He’s run a boldly progressive campaign for a state that went to Mitt Romney last cycle, calling for a public health care option and for campaign finance reform.

In Maine, Bellows is challenging popular three-term Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE (R), who isn’t considered particularly vulnerable — but Bellows did draw attention when she slightly outraised Collins in the fourth quarter of last year.

She, too, is pushing far-left policies that occasionally align her with the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, including dismantling the Patriot Act and marijuana legalization.

DFA Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said of Weiland that he’s “running as a progressive fighter ready to take the country's growing income inequality crisis head on.” 

“From his experience as a former FEMA Regional Director to his leadership as the State Director of the AARP, Weiland has proven time and again that he has what it takes to stand up for the people of South Dakota and Democracy for America is proud to stand up with him in his grassroots fight for the U.S. Senate,” he added.

Of Bellows, Chamberlain said she is the “perfect progressive champion to take on and expose Susan Collins' Tea Party voting record.” 

“Mainers don't support Ted Cruz or Rand Paul and, with the help of Democracy for America members in Maine and across the country, Shenna Bellows will ensure that they no longer have Senator Collins' rubber stamp on their Tea Party agenda in the U.S. Senate,” he said.

DFA has also endorsed Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), and Democrat Daylin Leach, running for Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s (D-Pa.) open seat.