U.S. News, 12/29/17 - 5 Candidates to Watch in 2018

By David Cantanese

Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District is a bloc of affluent Philadelphia suburbs that snakes out to rural pockets of the central commonwealth, around Reading and Lebanon. It's voted for GOP Rep. Ryan Costello two times by double-digit margins, while also barely supporting Clinton over Trump in 2016.

This is the type of usually safe, partially suburban Republican seat that Democrats believe could flip in a year with all the wind at their backs. Republicans worry if they lose here, their majority could be gone with it. 

Chrissy Houlahan – a Stanford-educated engineer, a former Air Force Reserve captain, teacher, chief operating officer and mother to a daughter who's a member of the LGBT community – never really considered the gravity her candidacy could take on. 

She was simply experiencing growing anxiety from the earliest days of the Trump presidency and caught the bug to act. After returning from the women's march in Washington last winter, she hit 'reply' to a generic fundraising email from Emily's List.

"Here's my resume. I'd like to be considered to run for Congress," she typed in her note.

"I was naive, thinking I'm sending this into the ether, that no one would see it," she recalls. "I'm glad somebody did."

An Emily's List aide says she did a spit take when she began reading Houlahan's extensive resume. 

Following weeks of phone calls, training sessions and meetings with influencers around the district, Houlahan, 50, launched her bid for Congress in the most populous state without a woman in its delegation. 

Based on strong early fundraising, she was just one of 11 Democratic challengers to make the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue" list, denoting "top tier" recruits. 

While she's preparing for a rough ride against a deluge of GOP-affiliated spending, she was heartened by this past November's off-year local election results in Chester County, where Democrats won four long-held Republican seats in the heart of the district. 

It's probably not a coincidence that shortly after that, Republicans began airing a digital advertising blitz linking one of Houlahan's former companies to Chinese sweatshops. 

Houlahan says she doesn't feel the nationalized pressure of the race and bats away speculation about what a win would mean for Trump.

"I feel like this is really a calling for me and that this is so important for my community," she says.

But the chairman of the GOP's House campaign arm has dubbed

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Campaign Staff