Politics

Hispanic House Recruit Gets Prominent Speaking Slot at DNC

Many other Democratic candidates are choosing to stay in their districts

Nevada state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call)

Nevada state Sen. Ruben Kihuen is the sole House Democratic recruit the Democratic National Convention Committee has touted as a major speaker in Philadelphia this week.  

The selection of a Hispanic state legislator underscores Democrats’ desire to showcase diversity on stage this week, while also promoting a candidate who has a good opportunity to flip a red seat blue.  

Democrats must net 30 seats to win control of the House and four to win control of the Senate (if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency). The party has touted the strength and diversity of its recruits this cycle, but many of its competitive recruits are steering clear of the convention.  

Kihuen is an establishment favorite — he was Harry Reid’s pick  — and defeated both an EMILY's List-backed candidate and Bernie Sanders-backed candidate in the June primary.  

“I look forward to sharing my experiences as an immigrant, the values my hard-working parents instilled in me, and my vision for a more inclusive America,” Kihuen said in a statement after the Democratic National Convention Committee announced him as a speaker late last week.  

Kihuen is running in Nevada’s 4th District , currently held by GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy, the second most vulnerable member of the House .  

The freshman Republican unseated a Democrat by less than 3 points in a low turnout year, and President Barack Obama carried the district comfortably in 2012. In this district that’s 29 percent Hispanic, Donald Trump and his comments about Hispanics may also be a liability down-ticket .    

All of that makes for unfavorable environment for an incumbent Republican who’s seen as too conservative for the district.  

Hardy lead Kihuen with cash on hand at the end of the second quarter, but now that his primary is over, Democrats are likely to invest more heavily in Kihuen and make sure he has the resources to be competitive.  

[ Democrats Aim to Reduce 30-Seat House Deficit with Help from Trump ]  

Nevada’s 4th District is among the party’s top pick-up opportunities in what they hope is an expanded battle field. With Trump at the top of the ticket, Democrats have recruited candidates in even red seats to take advantage of a wave.    

But Kihuen is the only one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s 38 Red to Blue candidates who, as of now, is scheduled to have a visible place on stage this week.  

Other candidates will appear on stage — but via video — with DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján on Tuesday night.   

[ The Seats Democrats Must Win to Retake House ]  

Other notable candidates expected to attend the convention include former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who’s running in Florida’s 10th District. The Democratic establishment has rallied behind Demings in her August primary. The June shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando has underscored her experience as an African American with law enforcement experience , who’s also been an outspoken advocate for gun safety reform.  

California’s Nanette Barragan, another EMILY’s List candidate, is running in the open 44th District, and is also expected to attend.  

New York Democrat Tom Suozzi, who’s running to succeed Rep. Steve Israel, will be in Philadelphia. He won a competitive primary last month, and is trying to keep Israel’s Long Island district in Democratic hands. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Report/Roll Call rates his race Tilts Democrat .  

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, will be at this convention, too. He’s running for the state’s 13th District, which became much more Democratic in recent redistricting , and faces GOP Rep. David Jolly , one of this year’s most vulnerable incumbents .    

Meanwhile, candidates like Colorado state Sen. Gail Schwartz and Indiana's Shelli Yoder , both Red to Blue candidates running in safe Republican districts, are steering clear.  

At the Senate level, Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth will be speaking , likely on the same night Clinton accepts the nomination. She's running in a Leans Democratic race against GOP Sen. Mark Kirk.  

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who's challenging GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, will be in Philadelphia but she is not scheduled to speak on stage during the convention. Similarly, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who's challenging Sen. Rob Portman, is attending with his delegation but not speaking.   

Pennsylvania Democrat Katie McGinty will be participating in an EMILY’s List event and holding media availabilities during the week. She’d be the first woman to represent the Keystone State in the Senate. California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who would be the second-ever African American woman elected to the Senate, will also be present during the convention.  

[ Kamala Harris Aims to Make History in California, Again ]  

Iowa Democrat Patty Judge, the former lieutenant governor, is waging an uphill battle against Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley. She'll be on hand this week. Judge’s star has risen as Democrats have sought to hit Republicans — and Grassley in particular — for blocking the nomination of the president’s choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  

[ Obama Backs Patty Judge in Iowa Senate Race ]  

But many recruits have said they are still determining their schedules, with the many choosing to remain in their districts to campaign.  

Many more Republicans with competitive races mostly stayed far away from their party’s national convention in Cleveland last week. The exceptions were Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson , who addressed the convention during prime-time, and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr , who met with his delegation but avoided the Quicken Loans Arena altogether.  

[ This Vulnerable Senator Is Not Afraid of Donald Trump ]  

The need to campaign in their districts during the summer recess is a reality for candidates on both sides of the aisle, but the degree to which incumbents and recruits are steering clear of their party conventions may also say something about the relatively unpopularity of each nominee and the desire among candidates to run their own races.  

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