Democratic priority list: No top billing for Brad Ashford-Lee Terry card

By Joseph Morton, World-Herald Bureau

WASHINGTON — State Sen. Brad Ashford has some work to do convincing national Democrats that he’s a serious contender against Omaha GOP Rep. Lee Terry this fall.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday identified 19 races where it sees the best opportunities to flip Republican-held seats into Democratic hands.

Ashford didn’t make the party’s “Red to Blue” list — an absence that could affect his ability to raise money and receive other support.

Nor was he on a separate “Emerging Races” list for campaigns that “are on track and working hard.”

In Iowa, former State Sen. Staci Appel was one of 10 Democratic women to make the list of top races. She is running for southwest Iowa’s 3rd District seat, now held by retiring GOP Rep. Tom Latham.

Meanwhile, Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer was placed on the “emerging” campaign list in his bid to knock off Republican Rep. Steve King in northwest Iowa’s 4th District.

Being identified as a priority race, party officials say, can introduce candidates to a national fundraising base and give them “financial, communications, grass-roots and strategic support.”

Ashford’s failure to receive priority status may reflect the fact that he jumped into the 2nd District race only a few weeks ago. He still has time to demonstrate that he’s for real.

But it’s a big shift from last year, when national Democratic officials described Terry as a vulnerable incumbent. They were elated when Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen jumped into the race, but he soon changed his mind and bowed out.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., head of the DCCC, told The World-Herald last week that he was excited about Ashford but emphasized that the state senator needs to work hard.

“As long as he’s reaching out to his community and doing what’s required to do to raise a profile and satisfy his constituents, we’ll be with him,” Israel said.

Asked whether Ashford was as good a candidate as Fester­sen, Israel quipped: “Better, because he’s running.”