Diverse Democratic group aims for stars, seeks to win US House

Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:34pm EDT

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Credit: Reuters

What do farmers, former mayors and prosecutors along with military veterans,  business people and the

son of migrant workers who grew up to become an astronaut all have in common?

They are among the scores of people from diverse walks of life who Democrats recruited to run for the House of Representatives in hopes of winning control of the chamber back from Republicans in next year’s election.

Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats in the 435-member House to capture the chamber, and are buoyed by recent polls that show Americans favor them over Republicans.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll of registered voters found that 48 percent said they would back Democrats, compared to 40 percent saying they would support Republicans, if the election were held now.

“With the wind now at our backs, we have strong Democratic candidates running in 60 Republican and open districts across the country,” Steve Israel, head of the House Democratic campaign committee, said this week in announcing that he had met his recruiting goal ahead of time.

Analysts say Democrats may pick up House seats in the November 2012 election, but not the 25 needed to take back control.

One of their biggest problems is President Barack Obama. His approval rating of only about 40 percent threatens to be a drag on their chances in individual House races.

“My best guess right now is that they pickup between zero and five seats,” said David Wasserman of the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Such talk doesn’t dampen Democrats’ enthusiasm for their House contenders.

Their list is literally topped by Jose Hernandez,  a California native who grew up picking vegetables with his migrant parents. He later soared over the same fields as an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

In declaring his candidacy this week, Hernandez, 49, who left NASA in January after more than a decade of service, said he was proof that the American dream lives.

“I went from plowshares to the stars,” he was quoted as saying in a Democratic press release.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Pierre Ducharme (Hernandez and other members of space shuttle Discovery at Kennedy Space Center in 2009)

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