Kirsten Engel AZ-6

This is a rematch – Kristen Engel (D) ran against the Republican incumbent, Juan Ciscomani, in 2022 and lost by just over 5,000 votes. She understands Arizona state politics, has a long record of public service, and has a solid chance to win this time. She was elected to the Arizona State House of Representatives in 2016 and to the State Senate in 2020 (she resigned in September 2021 to run against Ciscomani). Before serving in the state legislature, she held positions in the MA Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. EPA, and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. Kirsten has taught law at Tulane, Harvard, and now at the University of Arizona, where she teaches environmental and administrative law. In addition to her legal background and focus on abortion access, Engel supports expanding access to affordable health care, reforming our immigration system, and addressing climate change by developing solar energy and electric vehicle use. In contrast, Ciscomani, a former aide to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, has praised the Dobbs decision and has a record of anti-abortion votes.

Rudy Salas CA-22

Rudy Salas (D) is in a rematch with the incumbent David Valadao (R), who he lost to in 2022 by just over 3,000 votes. This race is a pick-up opportunity for Democrats, with most pundits rating it as a tossup. Democrat Rudy Salas served in the state Assembly for 10 years before first challenging Valadao for the congressional seat in 2022. Rudy is from Bakersfield and was the first Hispanic city councilman in Bakersfield before being elected to the state senate in 2012. The area’s population has changed significantly over the last decade. Latinos are now about 45.5% of the population, but Valadao has been aided by low voter turnout. Salas has a strong, extensive record of constituent service as a state senator and is known as a “bring home the bacon” type of representative. Biden won this district by a large margin in 2020 and Democrats hope that another presidential contest will result in a similar strong partisan showing.

Tony Vargas NE-2

The child of Peruvian immigrants who was a first-generation college student, Tony Vargas was a teacher and then headed a non-profit advocacy group before jumping into politics. In a ruby red state, he was elected to NE’s legislature by wide margins. Tony had a dual role of representing his district and informally representing Hispanics statewide. He was best known for his effort to pass a resolution requiring meat packing plants to comply with CDC’s COVID requirements. Vargas is now running to reduce the cost of healthcare, codify access to abortion, and expand voting rights. He is running against 4-term “moderate Republican” incumbent Don Bacon, who would make abortion illegal, voted for the enormous Trump tax cuts, is unsure that climate change is anything other than normal cyclical change, and would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Vargas ran against Bacon in 2022, losing by less than 6,000 votes. Biden won the district in 2020 by over 20,000 votes. This is a doubly crucial race; NE allocates its three electoral college votes by congressional district. Winning this seat could also mean an electoral college vote for Biden.

Sue Altman NJ-7

Sue Altman is running against freshman incumbent Thomas Kean Jr., and it’s a daunting task – like running against a Roosevelt in NY. Not only was his father a two-term governor of the state, but many of his ancestors served in Congress and in prominent roles in government even before there were states. Fortunately, Sue Altman, who is challenging Kean, is a modern star. Sue is a former high-school basketball standout who won a local championship, played in college at Columbia, and professionally overseas. Sue earned two graduate degrees overseas from Oxford University, then returned to the U.S. to teach and coach high school teams to the state championship. She is now the executive director of the Working Families Party. She is a well-known activist in state politics and has focused on abortion access, gun control, climate change, and tax policy. This district has see-sawed between Democrats and Republicans every few cycles. It is also a crossover district that Biden won by almost 10 percentage points. Both candidates are engaged in a tight race for votes and resources; now, Kean has about twice as much money as Altman.

Laura Gillen NY-4

Another actual toss-up race: Laura Gillen is a law professor at Hofstra University. She was the first Democrat in a century to win a local municipal office in a town that usually votes Republican – but in a congressional district that Biden won handily. Laura did what she could as the only Democrat on the town council — focusing on the audits, budgets, and making contracts public – the “ABC” of public transparency. She controlled spending and avoided what would otherwise have been a $59 million deficit while restoring a water testing laboratory, expanding the town’s shellfish hatchery, and constructing a new playground. Laura is a local and, like many New Yorkers, is a former aspiring actor and theater arts professional. As a lawyer, she worked on securities litigation, defamation, employment law, intellectual property, and pro bono work on domestic violence. She is running against freshman Anthony D’Esposito, who she lost to by less than 10,000 votes in 2022. She currently has about two-thirds as much money as D’Esposito.

Josh Riley NY-19

Josh Riley is running in what is expected to be a very close rematch with incumbent first-termer Marc Molinaro, whom he lost to in 2022 by less than 5,000 votes. Molinaro, a Trump loyalist, called Trump’s NY conviction a “perversion of our justice system”; he is also strongly anti-abortion. Riley grew up in a working-class neighborhood in upstate NY, seeing family members and neighbors lose their jobs when the two major factories closed. Josh graduated from Harvard Law School and worked as a staff assistant in congressional offices, as a policy analyst in the Department of Labor, and as General Counsel for Sen. Al Franken on the Senate Judiciary Committee. While in private practice, Josh filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court for stronger campaign finance laws, healthcare as a civil right, religious liberty, and support for “Dreamers” (children brought to the US by their undocumented parents). He supports a women’s right to choose, strengthening Medicare, building middle-class security, strict background checks for guns, addressing climate change, and defending our democracy and constitutional rights.

Janelle Bynum OR-5

Janelle Bynum is running in OR-5, which used to be slightly Democratic. This race is a do-over from 2022 when a very progressive Democrat lost to a moderate Republican. This year, more moderate Janelle Bynum, a state legislator, an engineer, and fast food restaurant owner, is the Democratic candidate. Bynum grew up in Washington, DC, a studious kid in a family where both mom and dad were teachers who encouraged educational activities. Janelle was selected for an engineering prep program targeting minority kids, eventually leading to attending Florida A&M, a Historically Black University, and earned an MBA from the University of Michigan. She and her husband eventually moved to OR to take over her in-law’s McDonald franchises. Janelle is running against freshman US House incumbent Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a former mayor. Bynum has run against Chavez-DeRemer twice before for a state legislative seat – and won both times. However, having won a competitive Democratic primary election, Bynum is currently at a significant cash disadvantage in the general election.

Janelle Stelson – PA-10

Janelle Stelson is running in Pennsylvania’s 10th district against six-term Republican Scott Perry, a far-right member of the Freedom Caucus, an election denier, and an active participant in Donald Trump’s machinations after the 2020 election. Perry voted to defund the FBI, against aid to Ukraine, and against giving a medal to the police officers who defended the Capitol on January 6th. Perry faces a stiff challenge from former TV newscaster (and former Republican) Stelson, who is running on protecting abortion access, reducing healthcare costs, funding public education, raising the minimum wage, and creating new jobs. There is reason to believe this district may be changing. Perry won by 7 points in 2022, but Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro won this district by 12 points in 2022. And for the first time in over a century, Democrats have a majority on the Dauphin County Commission (Harrisburg area). House Democrats have already made a $2.4 million ad buy in the Harrisburg media market after not investing in the district during the previous election cycle.