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[FDL is pleased to welcome Rep. Chris Van Hollen to chat with us today about DCCC propects in the House and his plans for further gains in 2008.  As always with Blue America chats, please stay on topic and be polite -- and take any off topic discussions to the prior thread.  Thank you!  -- CHS]

Please help me welcome Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to Firedoglake for a special Blue America chat.

I'm sure you've noticed that it isn't Saturday and you're probably aware that Chris Van Hollen is the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the folks charged with helping re-elect Democratic incumbents and add to the caucus by helping elect new Democrats. It isn't his job to help progressives or reactionaries or moderates, just Democrats…of every stripe.

He isn't visiting with us today to ask for money either, just to start a dialogue with our community.

Chris Van Hollen is a very different breed of leader from the last DCCC Chair. Where Rahm Emanuel rose in politics annihilating grassroots progressives, Van Hollen advanced by fighting Republicans. In the Maryland state legislature he amassed a sterling progressive record in his dozen years in the General Assembly.

He was the come-from-behind grassroots candidate in a primary battle among Democrats eager to take on Republican incumbent Connie Morella. Some observers say that in the primary the DCCC seemed interested in another contender. Van Hollen narrowly beat Mark Shriver and then ran a picture perfect campaign against Morella, a much-respected moderate, who he successfully painted as a Bush Regime enabler.

Affable, respected and well-liked, one of his first moves as D-Trip Chair was to clean up the mess Emanuel had made of relations with Howard Dean and the DNC.  Chris Van Hollen very much understands the 50 State Strategy. 

Van Hollen has also reached out to grassroots and netroots Democrats in a way his predecessor never did. He has held several conference calls with bloggers which were marked by respectful give-and-takes and an exchange of ideas, very unlike the forced, brittle and contentious attempts made by…you know who.  Today we have an opportunity to talk with the new Chairman about how he plans to run the DCCC and win even more seats from the Republicans in November of 2008.

Joining him later in the session will be DCCC Political Director Jon Vogel, an architect of the DCCC's political strategy and the chief surveyor of the political landscape. It is his and his team's groundwork that will help CVH determine the overall strategy for the 2008 cycle. He has a strong background in playing in Red States and helping to knock out entrenched incumbents across the country and in 2006 Jon served as the Northeast and Florida Regional Political Director and oversaw the pick up of 13 Republican seats in his region (11 in the Northeast and 2 in Florida). He fought hard and long to ensure wins for campaigns that included Patrick Murphy (D-PA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Paul Hodes (D-NH), Peter Welch (D-VT), John Hall (D-NY), Mike Arcuri (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to name a few.

Chris doesn't plan on interfering with primaries and is amenable to grassroots candidates and progressive candidates.

His own voting record certainly proves he has an affinity for a progressive philosophy of government. When I asked the DCCC staffers who helped me arrange for today's chat, Brandon English and Taryn Rosenkranz, if Chris and Jon wanted to recommend any candidates we should solicit contributions for, they told me they'd like to leave that up to us and were delighted when I suggested we'd request donations for the Blue America PAC and for the DCCC Frontline program.