DCCC adds first black candidates to list of top candidates

DCCC adds first black candidates to list of top candidates
© Twitter/Lauren Underwood/Colin Allred

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) added nine more candidates to its "Red to Blue" program on Thursday, including the first two black candidates this cycle to receive the designation highlighting the party's top House candidates. 

Thus far the majority of candidates highlighted by the program — which gives candidates fundraising and organizational support in their midterm campaigns — have been women. The DCCC has faced criticism in recent months for not having any black candidates on the list.

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Buzzfeed reported in February that The Collective PAC, a group that supports black congressional candidates, sent the DCCC a letter outlining frustration with the lack of any black candidates on the "Red to Blue" list. 
 
The two black candidates whose additions were announced Thursday are Texas's Colin Allred and Illinois's Lauren Underwood. 
 
Quentin James, The Collective PAC's executive director, applauded the additions in a statement Thursday as an "important step in the right direction." 
 
“We are excited our efforts to ensure the DCCC uplifts, highlights and prioritizes black candidates are achieving results," he said. 
 
“Black candidates have just as much talent, fundraising capability and viability as other candidates and they’ve not only earned but deserve national party support. With more black candidates running for Congress than ever in U.S. history this year, it is critically important that we elect a more diverse and reflective Congress in 2018." 
 
In a statement announcing the new candidates, New Mexico congressman and DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján pointed specifically to that diversity. 
 
“All across the country, candidates with records of service are connecting with voters, earning their trust and running increasingly competitive races,” he said. 
 
“The candidates in this new round of Red to Blue are running grassroots campaigns bolstered by local endorsements and key indicators of support in their communities. We’re also incredibly proud of the diversity represented in this latest list — in terms of race, gender, geography and backgrounds — and I am confident these individuals will play a critical role in helping take back the House.”
 
The designation is not an endorsement, but an indication that candidates have met certain thresholds about the health of their campaign organization and fundraising operation. Even so, it's a coveted selection because the DCCC gives these candidates additional resources as they build out a campaign they hope will unseat a Republican incumbent. 
 
Allred and Gina Ortiz-Jones, another add to the Red to Blue list on Thursday, have advanced to runoffs in Texas primaries. 
 
Allred also finished first in his primary race but could not avoid a runoff. The former professional football player and member of the Obama administration's Department of Housing and Urban Development is up against another former Obama administration official, Lilian Salerno, for the right to take on Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTrump: Republicans' and my poll numbers would be higher if not for Mueller's 'witch hunt' Bannon says right must support ‘RINOs’ Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE (R-Texas) in a district that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? MORE won in 2016, but one where Sessions remains the clear favorite. 
 
Ortiz-Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, finished first in her primary, with 41 percent of the vote, a strong showing but just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Ortiz-Jones is favored to win the runoff against Rick Trevino, a former presidential delegate for Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE (I-Vt.). The winner of that primary will take on Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDem introduces bill to create federal cybersecurity apprenticeship program Koch group launches digital ads in tight Texas House race Gingrich: Bushes view themselves as closer to Obamas, Clintons than to Trump MORE (R-Texas) in what could be one of the tougher match-ups of the midterm cycle.  
 
The most well-known addition to the list is Randy Bryce, the ironworker whose announcement video about his family's struggle with health issues went viral last year. Bryce is running in a primary for the right to challenge Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.) and has already proven to be a strong fundraiser. 
 
Two of the other additions, Underwood and Betsy Londrigan, were added to the program after primary victories in Illinois Tuesday. 
 
 
Trump won both districts by a few points in 2016, but the races are still considered uphill climbs for Democrats and are ranked "likely Republican" by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. 
 
Four other additions to the program have either already won their primaries or aren't facing significant resistance ahead of their general elections. 
 
Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval (D-Ohio) won the designation in his bid to unseat Republican Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotDems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests Support the Trademark Licensing Protection Act Congress losing faith in Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi MORE in the fall. Pureval ran a strong race in 2016 to win that position and his entry earlier this year prompted the remaining Democratic candidates in the district to close down their campaigns. Cook recently moved the race closer to a competitive one, but it still is considered a "lean Republican" seat. 
 
Nancy Soderberg, a former national security staffer under President Clinton, is the overwhelming favorite to win her primary in Florida, where she's running to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTrump's baby blimp arrives in Florida for Mar-a-Lago protest Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states San Juan mayor calls Hurricane Maria ‘Trump's Katrina’ MORE (R), who is running for governor. Trump won that district by about 17 points, a fact that proves the uphill battle Democrats will ahve there. 
 
Michigan's Gretchen Driskell, a former member of the state House, is another favorite to win her primary battle, where she hopes for a rematch against Rep. Tim WalbergTimothy (Tim) Lee WalbergDems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests Record numbers of women nominated for governor, Congress Five takeaways from Ohio's too-close-to-call special election MORE (R). She lost to Walberg by about 15 points in 2016. 
 
California's TJ Cox, the only candidate left to challenge Republican Rep. David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoDems make big play for House in California Immigration overhaul on life support in the House The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE in the fall, joins the program as well. Cox, an engineer, had initially sought to run against Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamTrump attacks Dems on farm bill House Republicans push for vote on Violence Against Women Act Steyer group launching 0,000 digital ad campaign targeting millennials MORE (R) but switched over into this race when the party's top candidate withdrew his candidacy. Clinton won the seat by a double-digit margin in 2016, boosting Democratic hopes there.